AOA, Insurance Commissioner Send Letters Opposing Stand-Alone Vision Plans

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – As states around the country start to decide whether to include stand-alone vision plans in their health insurance exchanges being created in the wake of health care reform, including California this weekend, both the American Optometric Association (AOA) and Washington State insurance commissioner Mike Kreidler, OD, MPH, FAAO, have released new statements opposing them. The AOA’s letter to its members late Wednesday of this week is formatted to debunk a series of what it refers to as "myths" related to stand-alone vision plans, and Kreidler’s statement is in the form of an open letter addressed “Dear Fellow Optometrist” that was released yesterday by the AOA to its members. Both the AOA and Kreidler argue that stand-alone vision plans are not excluded from participating in state insurance exchanges because they are free to contract with qualified health plans. In addition, the AOA’s letter also links to a video from its president Dori Carlson, OD, to explain more about its stance on this issue. "It’s essential for optometrists in California and across the country to have all the facts about vision plans and the new health care law,” Carlson told VMail. “As an OD, former member of congress and insurance commissioner working to ensure that the law is implemented fairly, Dr. Mike Kreidler is concerned about attacks on our profession and efforts to turn back the clock on our scope and patient access gains. His comments are timely and important, and I encourage all ODs to read his letter."

Dr. Kreidler’s letter concludes, "Stand-alone vision relegates us to a professional backwater and not part of the essential eyecare team. I urge you to support optometry’s professional advancement. Please oppose any suggested moves that will take opportunity away from us. Stand-alone vision is such a move.” Kreidler also states, “Our state legislature is in the process of designating me as the person to choose the Essential Health Benefits for Washingtonians under health care reform."

Earlier this week, VMail reported on this weekend’s California Optometric Association vote on a resolution that “strongly advocates the inclusion of stand-alone vision plans in the California Health Benefit Exchange" and the fact that the National Association of Vision Care Plans and the Primary Eyecare Network came out in support of this (see “Associations Go Public with Support for Stand-Alone Vision Plans for the Affordable Care Act”).

As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act gradually approaches full implementation in 2014, every state will be required to establish insurance exchanges where companies and individuals can purchase health insurance that covers ten Essential Health Benefits, pediatric vision care among them. However, these and other factions in the field of optometry differ on whether pediatric vision care should be provided via stand-alone vision insurance plans or as part of all-encompassing qualified health plans. (See “Debate Intensifies Over Stand-Alone Vision Plans’ Role in Health Care Reform” and “Feds Propose Health Care Reform’s Essential Health Benefits Cover Routine Eye Exams and Corrective Lenses”).