Why We’ve Invited the AOA to a Healthcare Reform Forum

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO May 02, 2012

We all remember the famous words sung by Sister Sledge: “We are Family.” There is no question about it; the optometric profession has always had a real sense of family. Remarkably, we actually like each other. However, that does not mean that we always agree.

I clearly remember a vacation disagreement as to the best route to our destination. My father was convinced that we should head north before heading west. My mother was equally convinced that there was no need for the northward jog and rather that we should head directly west. We were in agreement on the ultimate destination, but were in disagreement on how to get there. We were just ready to head north (as it turned out, in the wrong direction) when we decided to have a family meeting to examine the facts and reset our course.

So, it is in the debate about what is best for optometry in this era of healthcare reform. Should stand-alone vision plans be allowed to directly participate in the state insurance exchanges? Some say yes, some say no. As it stands today, stand-alone vision plans are excluded from direct participation, and only qualified health plans may sell in the exchanges. We are in agreement on the goal of integration with medicine and the achievement of fair treatment by health plans; we are in disagreement on how to get there. Some within our profession view stand-alone vision plans as an impediment to optometric integration with medicine. They believe that optometric services should be delivered under health plans. They seem comfortable with having health plans determine how patients will access optometric practices despite the numerous present day examples of discrimination with respect to both participation and reimbursement.

Others within our profession view stand-alone vision plans as a critical independent access channel for optometry. They see the huge advantage in having a direct access channel like VSP, which directs 57 million patients to independent optometry and which is not controlled by health plans. This group believes that we must protect and expand this important access channel while we work to eliminate health plan discrimination. It does not make sense to impair the stand-alone vision plan access channel while health plan problems continue.

Clearly, the family is in disagreement.

On May 24, 2012, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. in St. Louis, Missouri, an open forum has been scheduled to examine the facts and determine the best course of action for the family. We invite you to attend the national simulcast so that you can be fully informed about the relative risks inherent in health care reform. It is critically important that you be part of the discussion and that your questions be answered.

As I see it, the optometric family needs to carefully examine the facts regarding health care reform. I also believe it is high time to require a clear articulation of the steps by which optometry overcomes health plan discrimination before we adopt philosophies that threaten to disrupt the fundamental economics of optometric practice.

Learn more at VSPProvesIt.com/healthcare.

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