AOA Receives Department of Justice Approval to Expand Group Purchasing Activities for Its AOAExcel Members

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced January 15 that it will not challenge a proposal by the American Optometric Association to expand its group purchasing organization’s (GPO) activities to include the purchase of optometric products for resale to consumers, specifically eyeglass lenses, frames, and contact lenses. According to a statement issued by the DOJ, the proposed expansion of the AOA’s purchasing activities, conducted through a program known as AOAExcel, is “unlikely to produce anticompetitive effects.” Moreover, the expansion could produce discounts for the Association’s members and ultimately lead to lower prices for optometric products for consumers, the DOJ said.

The Department said that AOA will comply with the Department’s Antitrust Enforcement Policy in Health Care by implementing three safeguards to reduce the risk of facilitating price fixing: “GPO participants will not be required to make any of their optometric-product purchases through the GPO; a third party will negotiate prices with the GPO’s suppliers, and communications between the GPO and each individual participant regarding prices will be kept confidential from other GPO participants.” In addition, no optometric product manufacturer maintains any financial stake, makes any financial contributions, or holds any ownership or board positions in the Association or the GPO.

As a result of DOJ’s decision, Intalere, a nationwide healthcare organization that acts as the AOAExcel GPO's third-party agent, will negotiate discounts on contact lenses, frames and lens materials to be included in the AOAExcel GPO. This in turn allows AOA members to provide high-quality and more economically competitive optical products, reduce acquisition costs, and allow members to better compete in the eyecare market, the organization said on its website.

"This new development improves an already-great member benefit. I encourage all AOA members to take advantage of the GPO and all of the programs and services offered by AOAExcel. They are designed to help you thrive and excel," said AOA president Barbara L. Horn, OD in the post.

AOAExcel currently provides business products and services to AOA members such as professional liability insurance, credit card processing, life insurance, office and medical supplies, to include optometric-specific products for consumer resale.