Optometrists React to VSP/AOA Debate Over Stand-Alone Vision Care Plans

ST. LOUIS—Vision Monday generated some passionate feedback from the May 25 Breaking VMail article about the VSP Global/American Optometric Association debate over whether stand-alone vision plans should be permitted to directly participate in the state health insurance exchanges.

Following are some of the comments from our readers:

What does VSP want AOA to do…and vice versa? Does each need each other? It is unfortunate that these two players cannot find more common ground. Is it possible?
Richard Hom, OD, MPA

The VSP vs. AOA battle is actually based on the AOA belief that VSP is a threat to AOA power and control over optometry. The AOA believes it is “protecting” optometry and itself from VSP. The AOA, at the Healthcare Reform Open Forum, said it will never “retreat” and there was no need for any compromise. This is an emotional, almost paranoid, response that leaves no room for dialogue to accomplish anything of value. The problem will probably escalate and continue to divide optometry for the next few years.
Len Forbes, OD

Let's see, VSP’s agenda is strictly selfish, like most things it does. The AOA, as a true non-profit, is looking out for the profession of optometry, something VSP abandoned years ago.
Gary G. Gray, Jr., OD

Thank you for your clear and fair reporting of the event!

I was in attendance for the sole purpose to hear the AOA give us, all optometry, their plan to succeed. First, I was disappointed that not one of the AOA Board of Trustees was in attendance. Second, I was disappointed that the AOA committee chairs who were present did not explain how the AOA was going to execute a plan. My only encouragement from the AOA was, “God willing, we will have a comp exam.” Third, I was disappointed at the end of the planned discussion, after the moderator said that the panel would be around for questions, that the AOA committee left saying, “If you need more information, call the AOA.” Lastly, I was disappointed that the AOA said there was no need for compromise.

So, my take: In my 30 years in practice I have learned that medicine-led insurance is not my friend even if they appear otherwise. So I will not be so foolish as to put the last years of my practice solely in the hands of medicine-led insurance companies. As it stands today with the Harkin Amendment, optometry has a place, but maybe not for all of us. Also, as it stands today, you must have a medical diagnosis to use medical insurance or it falls to routine care. Included in the qualified health plans is routine care provided by the lowest payers in our industry. Why isn’t the AOA working to get parity between vision plans instead of excluding the one or two plans that pay optometry the most?

VSP is far from perfect, but they have always given me access to patients. The AOA, maybe not intentionally, doesn’t know how to save face and is attempting to limit my access to patients.

I have been an AOA member and VSP provider for over 30 years. My practice income is over 30 percent medical derived from a patient base that is 72 percent VSP.
Robert L. Bass, OD, FAAO