AOA’s New President, Mitchell T. Munson, OD, Discusses Initiatives Being Implemented During His Leadership

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Mitchell T. Munson, OD 
SAN DIEGO—Vision Monday sat down with the new AOA president, Mitchell T. Munson, OD, during Optometry’s Meeting held here last month to find out what he has planned for his tenure as president. The second Coloradoan to serve as AOA president, Munson was installed by Ron Fair, OD, the first AOA president from Colorado.

Vision Monday: Please tell us what we can expect from your AOA presidency.

Mitchell T. Munson, OD: First, I’m proud to have Dr. Fair do the installation of officers. He’s been a mentor and an important figure in Colorado optometry. Hi son, Rod Fair, who is also an OD, was president of the Colorado Optometric Association the year before I was, so I followed him through the chairs. So there’s a little bit of a connection.

What’s on my radar this year will start with health care reform because the Affordable Care Act officially rolls out January 2014, under my watch. Arguably the most controversial piece of legislation Congress has ever dealt with, health care reform was debated at least two years before it passed in 2010. Four years ago, we made an investment in our Washington office, because we needed to know and interpret what this 2,000-plus page document was going to look like and what it really meant for us in optometry.

The AOA really wasn’t big enough to take a position for or against the Affordable Care Act, but we did view it as an opportunity to improve access for patients to optometry and certainly bring more attention to the importance of early and regular eyecare for children.

Of course, our InfantSEE program rolled out several years ago to start public awareness, but now that Congress has passed what they consider the 10 essential health benefits, every child 18 and under in this country is going to have a comprehensive vision exam, and in 48 states it will include materials for children.

Now there’s no excuse for children not to have an eye exam before they start school and in their first year of life and in their third year of life. That was the impetus of InftantSEE, to start the idea of early and regular eyecare, and now the Affordable Care Act will help continue that. That is huge when you consider amblyopia and learning disabilities, so much of which is tied to undiagnosed vision problems. We now have national legislation that’s going to require eyecare for children. It’s a great thing for our kids and our country, because they’re going to be better educated. They’re going to be able to learn better when they can see.

The other piece is the Harkin Amendment. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, author of the Harkin Amendment, basically breaks down a problem we’ve had with ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) plans in this country that medically self-insure. When you do that, you can pick and choose who provides the care, and historically medicine has done the eyecare for ERISA plans. Optometry has by and large been excluded from seeing patients covered by ERISA plans, which consists of about 70 million folks in this country. The Harkin Amendment changes that.

Other things, looking forward, involve communications. We went live with a new website. By early 2014, AOA News will change completely in its look and will include both news and clinical content.

Membership will continue to engage and work on the transition of students into membership in the AOA. We made a concerted effort starting with Dr. Carlson’s 20/20 Tour. Now, every school and college of optometry gets a visit from an AOA board member every year to talk about the benefits of AOA and membership to see an increase in the transition rate from student membership into AOA membership upon graduation.

We’ve also been working on our technology. We went live this year with our association management system, our whole new IT platform within AOA. Our affiliates can be a part of the same software system, so our data is real time. For example, when a member joins in Iowa, we’re looking at the same data at AOA. And there’s much more functionality than just that. We’re planning on bringing on our first six affiliates by the end of the year. ■

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