While April showers brings May flowers, the POA’s lobby day on June 4th will bring optometry’s voice to Harrisburg. I am excited to invite you to attend a legislative action day on Capitol Hill on Monday, June 4, 2018 as we educate our elected officials about the important role optometrists play in the vision health of Commonwealth residents. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both the House and Senate members, who were visited by POA doctors in October of 2017, and we want to continue riding that momentum with a second round of visits.
Never attended a lobby day before? No worries! Our day will begin with a dynamic and information-filled program ensuring you are prepared for discussions with your legislator. If you prefer, we can pair you with an experienced optometrist to join you for your legislator visit. You will learn about two current legislative efforts impacting optometry and our patients.
The first is Senator Ward’s SB257, “Quality Eye Care for Insured Pennsylvanians”. This bill provides Pennsylvania’s citizens protection from the actions of Vision Care Plans. These plan designs often attempt to restrict the patient’s freedom of choice by dictating the suppliers and brands of products covered by their plans. As these companies continue to vertically integrate, they increasingly force our patients into products that financially benefit the Vision Care Plan, at the expense of patient choice. The bill also helps to limit the discounts that our members are forced to give, limiting it to services and products that are actually covered by the plan.
The second is Senator Gordner’s bill to modernize Pennsylvania optometrists’ scope of practice. Currently, optometrists are subject to some outdated regulations in the Optometric Practice Act. Any new medications need to be approved by the Secretary of Health, resulting in a delay in our patients having availability to new and beneficial treatments. For example, when Xiidra was introduced last summer, it took about four months for it to be approved. Another regulation requires optometrists consult with a medical doctor when a patient’s treatment exceeds six weeks. This requirement was not included when the scope was modified to include glaucoma. Obviously if there is no issue with optometrists treating glaucoma beyond six weeks, there should not be an issue with dry eye or allergy drops either. It is definitely time for these outdated regulations to be removed. The bill will also allow optometrists to prescribe hydrocodone again, which was lost when it was reclassified as a level 2 narcotic, and allow injections for anaphylaxis and into the upper and lower eyelids.
For this day to be successful, please block off your patient schedule now for Monday, June 4, 2018 and plan to attend the 2018 Optometry at the Capitol Day. Your voice is important and your participation will make an impact. Our political action days in Harrisburg continue to grow; it is time for you to join us in advocating for our patients so the General Assembly recognizes the strength and importance of organized optometry.
Rebecca Wincek-Bateson, O.D.