The event run through June 25.

(Press Release) WASHINGTON, DC – More than 5,000 doctors of optometry and students from all 50 states are in Washington, DC, this week to spotlight optometry's expanding role in the health care system and key advancements in patient-centered care. The American Optometric Association members are underscoring the importance of expanded access to in-person eye health and vision care provided by the country’s doctors of optometry, and building new support for AOA-backed patient health and safety priorities.

"Our AOA is a nationwide force for health and vision. As Congress continues to deliberate the future direction of health care in this country, doctors of optometry – America’s family eye doctors – are making sure our patients’ eye health and vision care needs are heard loud and clear this week in the nation’s capital," said AOA President Andrea Thau, O.D. "Ensuring access to quality care in all communities across the country and preserving the doctor-patient relationship to deliver the best care are our top priorities."

Through the delivery of personalized care and comprehensive eye exams, doctors of optometry help ensure precise and healthy vision, identify and treat glaucoma and serious infections and provide early diagnosis of threats to overall health – including hypertension, stroke and diabetes, which may have no obvious symptoms. The doctor-patient relationship is at the heart of optometry practices serving thousands of communities across the country.

Legislators, Doctors and Students Voice Eye Health and Vision Care Priorities

In a first-of-its-kind gathering, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and the chair of the House Republican Conference, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), joined more than 2,300 students of optometry during a rally on Capitol Hill at 1 p.m. June 21.

During the rally and in more than 250 meetings and events with senators, House members and staff, AOA member doctors and students are urging senators and House member to:

  • Support the bi-partisan Dental and Optometric Care Access Act (H.R. 1606), also known as the DOC Access Act. The AOA and American Dental Association-backed legislation would empower doctors and patients in their dealings with insurance plans, eliminate a growing number of anti-competitive practices in health care and help improve overall quality of patient care. The bill was introduced in March by Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA).
  • Vote to eliminate the health insurance industry's anti-trust exemption with the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act (H.R. 372). The bill would authorize the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department to "enforce the federal antitrust laws against health insurance companies engaged in anticompetitive conduct." The legislation, introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (R-AZ), passed the House on March 22 by an overwhelming margin of 416-7.
  • Prevent the FTC from implementing a harmful proposal, developed under the previous administration, that would impose new paperwork burdens on doctors and patients while failing to address the predatory practices of some online contact lens sellers that have the potential to harm patients and increase health care costs. This week, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) rolled out a bipartisan letter demanding that the FTC abandon this proposal.
  • Uphold existing laws that assure access to in-person, comprehensive eye examinations, including essential pediatric eye health coverage and a ban on discrimination by ERISA and other plans.

"This week, doctors of optometry are making a difference in how elected officials, employers, the media and the public view our profession," Thau said. "Patient eye health is currently under threat by special-interest groups with a fiercely anti-optometry agenda. This is the time for all AOA doctors and students to speak out together for our practices and our patients."

Promoting Veterans' Eye Care

Expanding veterans' access to timely, quality eye and vision care through in-person, comprehensive eye examinations is a long-time priority for AOA member doctors. On June 21 at 12:30, Senator John Boozman (R-AR) and Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), along with the AOA, AMVETS, the Blinded Veterans Association, the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Armed Forces Optometric Society and the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, hosted a roundtable to address the importance of eye health care for America’s veterans and upholding the VA's guarantee of "one standard of care."

All advocacy efforts are taking place during Optometry’s Meeting, 2017, the world's premier optometric conference that brings together thousands of optometrists from around the globe to learn about the latest developments in eye health research and technology. The meeting is being held June 21-25 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

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