Elections May Bring Health Care Reform Changes: AOA’s Ellis


ST. LOUIS—As a result of the Republicans’ sweep of many national and state elections earlier this month, the health care reform legislation passed last March may be facing some changes, according to Joe Ellis, OD, the president of the American Optometric Association (AOA).

But Ellis said the organization’s efforts to secure a place for optometry in whatever health care formulas ultimately emerge—and to advocate for complete eye exams for children in the final coverage negotiations—will continue, regardless of changes in the political landscape.


“We still have a lot of work to do,” Ellis said shortly after the November elections—which brought the first optometrist, John Boozman, OD (R-Ark.), to the U.S. Senate, after having been a U.S. Representative since 2001.

Ellis declared, “We intend to safeguard our patient gains, including the Harkin Amendment, and to continue to advocate for a children’s eye exam benefit as essential” in any final health care coverage decision. Also important, he said, will be continuing to push for “optometry’s role in primary care.”

With a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives as of January, Ellis said he sees potential for changes in some provisions of the health care bill that were deemed unpopular by Republican politicians. But for now, the AOA president told VM, “We have to go with the letter of the law” as it currently stands. If that law changes, Ellis said, “We’ll have to make adjustments.”

Looking ahead, he said the AOA’s key priorities for 2011 will be “working on the Federal and state levels to move the key [eyecare] provisions forward,” and to have a say in the definition of the “essential vision benefit” currently included in the law.

In summary Ellis said, “The AOA continues to be committed to optometry having a seat at the table when health care decisions are made.”