As POA president, I feel it’s my duty to keep the membership informed of our legislative efforts both at the state level and at the national level. Let me start with Pennsylvania. The legislative session in PA runs two years with the current session scheduled to end on November 30, 2016. The PA state legislature is the second largest state legislature in the nation and the largest full-time legislature. Just as a frame of reference, 3,998 bills were introduced in the House and Senate during the 2013-14 session. Of those bills that were introduced, 369 bills became law, or 9.2 percent.
Here is what’s happening in PA:
Senate Bill 1012 is the “scope modification bill” introduced by Senator John Gordner. This bill is currently sitting with the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. The co-sponsors for this bill are Senators White, Baker, Scarnati, Hutchinson, Bartollota, Yudichak, Stefano, Wozniak, Rafferty, Folmer, Pileggi, and Teplitz.
Key components of the bill include:
- revising the therapeutic drug approval process to eliminate the Secretary of Health approval;
- eliminating the six-week restriction on therapeutic drug usage; and
- allowing optometrists to do injections for anaphylaxis, a potentially life-saving procedure.
Senate Bill 978 is the “third party bill” that was introduced by Senator Kim Ward and is currently sitting in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. The co-sponsors for this bill are Senators Scarnati, Folmer, Rafferty, Gordner, Teplitz, Vogel, Boscola, McGarrigle, Yudichak, Brooks, Hutchinson, Sabatina, Wozniak, Stefano, White, Schwank, Leach, McIlhinney, and Corman.
Key components of the bill include:
- allowing providers to use the lab of their choice to fabricate eyewear;
- allowing providers to participate with a medical plan without being required to participate in the associated vision plan;
- eliminating mandatory discounts on non-covered services and materials; and
- making vision plans obtain written consent from the provider before any changes may occur to the terms of a provider contract.
Again, if you personally know any of the above legislators, please contact the POA.
House Bill 1779, otherwise known as the “handicapped placard bill,” was introduced by Representative James Marshall. This bill would add optometrists to the list of providers who can certify that a person is disabled so that a disability parking placard may be issued. This bill is currently residing with the Transportation Committee and has 21 co-sponsors.
On the national level I would like to highlight two very important bills.
Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who happens to be an internist, has introduced the AOA-backed Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act (S. 2777) to crack down on unscrupulous Internet-based contact lens sellers that are placing contact lens wearers at risk by selling without proper verification of prescriptions, by overfilling orders, by filling orders with expired prescriptions, or by filling orders with lenses other than those that were prescribed.
Here is a link to the AOA Legislative Action Center where you can read more about this bill and take action by sending an email to your legislator: http://tinyurl.com/aoa2777
H.R. 3323, The Dental and Optometric Care Access Act, also known as the DOC Access Act, is the AOA and American Dental Association-backed legislation that seeks to outlaw anti-patient and anti-doctor policies by Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and other federally-regulated vision and health plans, including restrictions on medical plan participation, limits on doctors’ choice of labs, and mandates on non-covered services and materials.
H.R. 3323 would, among other safeguards, prohibit plans from forcing discounts on non-covered services and materials; prohibits forcing doctors to participate in a vision plan as a condition for participation in a medical plan; and prohibits restrictions on a doctor's choice of lab.
The DOC Access Act specifically targets insurers and plans that are regulated on a federal level and often are beyond the reach of state law, such as those organized under the ERISA. As such, the AOA is urging states to continue to advance state-level fixes to plans regulated on the state level.
Here is a link to the AOA Legislative Action Center where you can read more and take action: http://tinyurl.com/aoa3323
Finally, I would like to thank all those who came to the POA Congress in Camp Hill to support our profession. Those who attended enjoyed top-notch education, an exhibit hall with 30 vendors, the House of Delegates, the POA Awards ceremony, an inspirational appearance by actor/singer Tom Sullivan, the President’s Reception with yours truly and the Andy Mowatt quartet, and Saturday evening at Penn National Race Course and the Hollywood Casino!
For a little taste of the fun that was had here is a link to my performance with the Andy Mowatt Quartet: https://youtu.be/c8CRADPuerE
Have a great summer everyone,
Mark M. Margolies, O.D.