AOA and Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety Organize Capitol Hill Advocacy Meetings


AOA president-elect, Barbara L. Horn, OD, presents Sen. John Boozman, OD, (R-Ark.) with the 2019 AOA Health Care Leadership Award to kick off the AOA on Capitol Hill event.

WASHINGTON—Hundreds of American Optometric Association (AOA) doctors of optometry and students from across the U.S. gathered here this week to meet with lawmakers to discuss the expanding the role of ODs in health care and the importance of eye health care for all Americans. One of the goals was to maintain the profession's voice at the center of health care decision-making, according to an AOA announcement. A separate announcement by the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety (APS) noted that its members visited nearly a dozen congressional offices this week to brief members of Congress and their staffs on “problems that vision care patients face, including online sellers’ problematic use of robocalls and the medical dangers and safety threats posed by the substitution of lenses that have not been prescribed to a patient.”

APS, founded in 2018, has said its priorities including “closing loopholes within the existing [contact lens] verification process and prevent the dangerous sale of counterfeit lenses and the substitution of lenses to reduce the risk of preventable vision loss.”

In the center of the group, AOA vice president William T. Reynolds, OD, members of the Kentucky Optometric Association and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) with an AOA Distinguished Service Award.​

AOA president Dr. Samuel D. Pierce noted that the AOA on Capitol Hill event has experienced “tremendous growth,” from fewer than 200 doctors attending a decade ago to more than 600 doctors and students this year. “Through direct, face-to-face advocacy, we are mapping the course for the future of eye health care delivery and helping put the trusted doctor-patient relationship at the center of important health care decision-making,” Pierce said in the announcement.

AOA said the priority issues that it addressed during meetings with lawmakers and staff included “costly health and vision plan abuses,” the effort to stop the FTC from finalizing its proposed contact lens paperwork mandate and how to make the contact lens prescription verification process simpler and safer for patients, among other issues. AOA said it also discussed on Capitol Hill is “the appropriate use of telehealth” so that it preserves the doctor-patient relationship.

Dr. Deanna Alexander, chairwoman of APS, said in the group’s announcement that APS is committed to working with lawmakers on contact lens safety and regulation. “Access to contact lenses should be fair and safe for patients while preserving the doctor-patient relationship, just as Congress intended,” Alexander said. “The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety is committed to working with lawmakers and regulators to address the FTC Contact Lens Rule verification loophole that puts patients’ eye health and safety at risk.”