AOA and ADA Urge Support of Dental and Optometric Care Access Act

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WASHINGTON, D.C.— Legislative efforts surrounding the issue of "health care consumer access" via certain insurance plans are increasing. In a joint petition to U.S. House members on March 23, also known as what it described as "a national day of action," the American Optometric Association doctors and students, along with American Dental Association (ADA) members—called on lawmakers' support of H.R. 3323, the Dental and Optometric Care Access Act, “to help level the playing field for patients and their doctors by targeting some of the most offensive vision and health plan abuses,” according to an announcement from the AOA.

Introduced by Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Georgia) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), H.R. 3323 is a bipartisan, AOA/ADA-backed effort aimed at outlawing detrimental policies by ERISA and other federally regulated vision and health plans, including restrictions on medical plan participation; limits on a doctor's choice of lab; and mandates on noncovered services and materials.

The announcement went on to state that although H.R. 3323 continues to gain support on Capitol Hill, vision plans are actively lobbying to derail this progress, opposing the bill because they believe it would only "reduce quality, value ... and increase administrative costs," according to one vision plan association representative.

"The DOC Access Act represents a national counterattack on the anti-doctor and anti-patient policies of health and vision plans and was written to ensure that doctors and patients, not insurance and plan executives, are again at the center of important health care decisions," said AOA president Steven A. Loomis.

In related news, The Vision Council reported earlier this week that legislatures in 11 states have enacted “access” acts from 2013 to 2016: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Oregon, Texas, Vermont and Virginia. Two states— Florida and Pennsylvania—and Congress have legislation pending regarding managed vision care access.

The Vision Council has been tracking over 40 bills relating to managed vision care. While some of these bills have “died” in their respective legislatures, many have been signed into law or are working their way through the legislative process, the Vision Council noted.

Details regarding these managed vision care laws are available here. Vision Council members can use the organization’s iTrack tool to track specific legislation.

Certain pieces of legislation have already been signed into law. On June 20, 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 684 into law allowing private optometric practitioners to provide patients with materials from sources of their own choosing rather than being required to use those of managed vision care companies, as reported by VMail.

On Sept. 25, 2014, VMail reported that California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Assembly Bill No. 1877 (AB 1877) that would have required the Covered California state health insurance exchange to link buyers to a separate website selling adult vision coverage.

And in May 2014, VMail reported that following the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision affirming the state’s 2010 Patient Access to Eye Care Act, two other states, Kansas and Vermont, have passed legislation with similar language restricting the latitude managed vision care plans have when contracting with optometrists, primarily disallowing insurance companies from requiring providers to give covered members discounts on non-covered materials and services.

In February of this year, VMail reported that Covered California selected VSP Vision Care to offer access to vision care coverage for adults throughout the state.