AOA Commends New Jersey Legislators’ for New Law Removing ‘Barriers’ to Care

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ST. LOUIS—The American Optometric Association (AOA) has commended legislators in the state of New Jersey for their determined effort to gain approval of a new law that AOA says removes “the unnecessary barriers that disrupt doctors' ability to provide seamless, quality patient care.” Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed the bipartisan legislation, Assembly Bill 2336, last week before his term expired. The bill's provisions include prohibitions on requirements that doctors participate in a vision plan as a condition for contracting with a health plan; restrictions or limitations on doctors' choice of materials, services or optical labs provided to a patient; and requirements on non-covered services and materials, according to AOA.

“The bill will make a defined difference on how optometry is able to deliver care and services, opening access for many more New Jersians to optometric health care,” the association noted in a statement. In addition, the bill prohibits “some of the more egregious third-party hurdles that doctors often encounter, while restoring patients’ control of important health care decisions and access to timely medical eyecare,” AOA noted in a statement.

“The passage of this bill makes a difference in the delivery of quality health care in New Jersey,” Kenneth Daniels, OD, president of New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians (NJSOP), said in the AOA statement. “It will make a defined difference on how optometry is able to deliver care and services, opening access for many more New Jersians to optometric health care.”

The legislation was originally introduced in the 2014-15 legislative session but was not signed by the governor despite winning approval in both the state’s senate and house. It was reintroduced in the 2016-17 session, according to AOA, and it “quickly gained bipartisan backing with key support.”

Michael Veliky, OD, NJSOP’s legislative committee chair and past president, said that as a result of this “landmark legislation … New Jersey has leveled the playing field for our patients to get a fair shake with their insurance.”

In addition, the legislative victory “demonstrates that elected officials respect optometry’s essential and expanding role in the health care system,” said AOA president Christopher J. Quinn, OD, who lives and practices in New Jersey and is a past president of the NJSOP. AOA noted that “based on recent meetings with state and federal lawmakers, Dr. Quinn believes that AOA and state associations are being heard and will continue to see progress.”