Some had pushed for telehealth changes.

The 21st Century Cures Act, whose progress was being closely watched by the eyecare industry, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 13.

The legislation "includes key telehealth policy safeguards backed by the AOA over the past two years," the American Optometric Association notes.

The act includes significant funding into disease research and addiction response, while also overhauling regulatory processes aimed at bringing new drugs and proven medical devices to market sooner. AOA notes that "the $6.3 billion legislation was the focus of intense scrutiny by the AOA and others from the start, especially as some parties pushed for sweeping telehealth policy changes, including changes that would have radically altered how eye care is delivered under the Medicare program."

A statement posted at Whitehouse.gov calls the law "bipartisan legislation that will go a long way toward bringing about the medical breakthroughs we need to meet some of the biggest health challenges facing Americans today." The White House further explains: "The Cures Act makes significant investments in innovative technologies and research that could find a cure for Alzheimer's, end cancer as we know it, and help those who are seeking treatment for opioid addiction."

Early proposals would have expanded uses of telehealth products and programs, including into Medicare, according to AOA.

"While backing new technology to help doctors advance patient care, the AOA stood firmly for safeguards that ensure patient health and safety won't be compromised by false claims that in-person care is unimportant or unnecessary," the organization stated.

AOA says this section of the bill now instead directs the Department of Health and Human Services to study how telehealth's expansion may or may not work.

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