The Affordable Care Act: A Blessing or a Curse

Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being signed into law, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi observed, “We’re unlikely to know what the outcome will be until the law actually goes into effect. What we do know is that an estimated 32 million currently uninsured Americans will have coverage, and an estimated 9 million to 10 million of them will be children who previously did not have health insurance in general and vision care specifically.”

What this means for vision care is as uncertain as the ins and outs of the law itself. However, ODs can now prepare to deal with the new landscape of regulations that will accompany this expanded patient base.

While several states have committed to pursuing ways to offer stand-alone vision plans, in other states the debate over including these plans rages on. The American Optometric Association is advising “Optometrists and their state optometric associations to carefully monitor the development of the exchanges that will serve their areas and begin to familiarize themselves with the plans.”

Is it a foregone conclusion that the influx of newly insured patients will be a boon to ECPs? According to a recent report on “The State of the Optometric Profession: 2013,” presented by AOA Excel and Jobson Medical Group, it’s not a slam dunk. The report highlighted several priorities to boost patient demand.

First, the greatest growth potential is for ODs to educate patients about the benefits of regular eye exams and new eyewear technologies. Second, medical eyecare is the largest undeveloped revenue stream for many practices, which is why ODs should ID candidates for diagnosis and treatment. And finally, ODs must become accredited to gain access to newly covered patients and adopt technology to comply with insurer reporting requirements. Whatever the outcome, ODs, like the rest of Americans, need to stay tuned to see how the ACA story unfolds. ■