AOA Leaders on Capitol Hill Press for Optometry’s Priorities

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—In spite of the government shutdown, the board of trustees of the American Optometric Association (AOA) was on Capitol Hill for a series of private meetings with pro-optometry leaders in Congress on Oct. 10. Pictured at left, the AOA Board of Trustees stands on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. From top row left, trustee Christopher Quinn, OD, trustee Greg Caldwell, OD, trustee Barbara Horn, OD, trustee Samuel Pierce, OD, trustee William Reynolds, OD, and trustee Robert Layman, OD. From bottom row left, immediate past president Ronald Hopping, OD, MPH, president-elect David Cockrell, OD, president Mitchell Munson, OD, vice president Steven Loomis, OD, and secretary-treasurer Andrea Thau, OD.

AOA president Mitchell T. Munson, O.D., led the sessions, which aimed at building new support for AOA-backed bills before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to expand patient access to essential eye health care services, and providing optometry’s perspective on Congress’s health care policy priorities, including the need to fix the Medicare physician payment system, a statement from AOA said.

“The AOA is determined to ensure that optometry maintains its rightful seat at the table when health care policy decisions are being made in Washington, D.C.,” Munson said. “By holding a special board meeting in the Capitol, we were able to bring lawmakers to our table to discuss the most pressing concerns of ODs and optometry students nationwide. It was a productive and meaningful day for our profession, and it points to the need for the AOA to continue to make winning advocacy—in the federal, state and third-party arenas—our highest priority.”

The AOA Board of Trustees met with the following Congressional leaders: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Majority Leader, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), House Republican Conference chair/ lead sponsor of the National Health Service Corps Improvement Act (H.R. 920), Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Assistant Minority Leader, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), lead sponsor of the Optometric Equity in Medicaid Act (H.R. 855), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), leading opponent of the “Bucshon-Sullivan Bill” (H.R. 1427) and Sen. John Boozman, O.D. (R-Ark.), lead sponsor of the National Health Service Corps Improvement Act (S. 1445).

The meeting followed last month’s AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference, which brought more than 600 concerned ODs and optometry students to Capitol Hill for meetings with members of Congress from every state. The AOA said it will return in force to Capitol Hill at its next Congressional Advocacy Conference, open to all AOA doctors and students, April 28 to 30, 2014.

AOA doctors and students can help educate their elected officials in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives about optometry and AOA-backed legislation by visiting the AOA’s Online Legislative Action Center. More information about AOA-PAC, the AOA Federal Keyperson Program, the 2014 Congressional Advocacy Conference or other advocacy programs, is available from Jon Hymes, AOA Washington Office director, at (800) 365-2219.