An electronic petition on www.ODwire.org urges the American Optometric Association to make the pursuit and eventual passage of viable, ERISA-busting, federal level, any willing provider [AWP] legislation the AOAs number one priority, says optometrist Jeffrey F. Martin, of Tucson, Ariz., who originated the petition. The petition results from O.D.s having been systematically excluded from medical insurance panels, along with other non-MD health-care providers, Dr. Martin wrote in the body of the petition.
He says the petition is not meant to bash the AOA. I know the AOA is working diligently on this. The petition is meant to give a voice to optometrists who feel that this is a big issue and to let the AOA know that this is something we do supportthat [the AOA] is not going out on a limb alone on this.
The pursuit of any willing provider legislation is analogous to the passage of the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA), he says. The FCLCA is not perfect, but it did show that the AOA has political muscle. And, when the AOA is willing to stand up and fight, good things happen for the profession.
The FCLCA allows patients to buy their contact lenses from the provider of their choice, Dr. Martin says. But ironically, those same patients cant always choose the provider of their choice when they have a medical eye problem. If they can choose where they buy their contacts, why cant they choose their doctor?
Now is the time to go on the offensive, Dr. Martin says. Health-care costs are spiraling out of control, and the possibility of a federally supported national health-care system is growing. What if were excluded from that? he says. I dont think we want to take that chance.
The AOA fully agrees, says optometrist David Cockrell, who is on the AOA Board of Trustees as the trustee to the federal advocacy effort. Were all cognizant of the fact that the cost of health care is increasing, and the growth of the cost of health care is increasing rapidly, he says. Health insurance plans ought to see this as one of the main selling point of optometry since O.D.s are widely available and can deliver more affordable care.
The AOA is going to continue to push for inclusion of optometrists in all modes of health-care delivery, including federal government and state mandated programs, as well as private payers, he adds.
To that end, the AOA is making increased patient access (including AWP efforts) one of its top four priorities. The U.S. Congress is not considering national any-willing-provider legislation right now, Dr. Cockrell says. Meanwhile, were working on developing much closer relationships with members of the Senate and the House as they all start to seriously pursue health care reform. We want to make sure that well be at the table.At press time, the petition had almost 950 signatures. To view the full text, go to www.odwire.org/petition.