Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Legislative Update

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.
If you personally know any of the above legislators, please contact the POA office so that we can work together to achieve a favorable outcome.

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:
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:

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:

Have a great summer everyone,

Mark M. Margolies, O.D.

Friday, April 29, 2016

House of Delegates

What is a delegate? A delegate is a person elected or appointed to represent others. The POA House of Delegates will convene this year on Saturday, May 14 from 2:30-5:30 p.m. as part of the POA’s Spring Congress at the Radisson Hotel in Camp Hill. The House of Delegates is the legislative and policy making arm of the POA. All local society presidents are urged to attend along with society officers and general members. Besides the 2017 budget, which will be presented and voted upon, there will be a very special presentation from Jon Torrey, director of professional relations for the Think About Your Eyes (TAYE) program. 

As you may have heard, Think About Your Eyes is a national public awareness campaign, presented by The Vision Council and the American Optometric Association, designed to educate the public on the benefits of vision health and promote the importance of getting an annual comprehensive eye exam. One feature of the program is a doctor locator website, which can be found at Consumers can search this website to find an optometrist within or near a zip code.

Here is some information behind the TAYE program that Mr. Torrey provided to me:
TAYE’s consumer advertising is reaching the public and increasing the number of exams given across America. Comprehensive exams are growing at over twice the rate as compared to the rate before TAYE’s national launch. Data from The Vision Council’s VisionWatch survey shows that during 2015 alone, over one million additional comprehensive exams occurred due to the advertisement. Those exams generated at least $55 million in clinical fees, and expenditures totaling $450 million for purchases of lenses, frames, and contacts. 

Over the past year in Pennsylvania:
  • Almost 140,000 patients visited the TAYE website to find a doctor.
  • 418 patients dialed an office to make an appointment while viewing the locator on their mobile phone.
  • 427 patients clicked on “Request Appointment.”
  • 1,566 patients read a doctor’s profile, downloaded map directions, or clicked through to a doctor’s website or Facebook page.
Patient engagement numbers would jump if the POA had all its members listed, as opposed to the less than 100 members currently listed. Because of the higher “crawlability” of the TAYE doctor locator, having a listing helps increase the chances that a doctor will show up when a patient searches for optometrists online.

The POA has been presented with the opportunity to join 29 other states who have enrolled their entire association membership in this program. Currently, the fee for a basic listing for an individual doctor is $250 per year. If the POA commits to the program for its membership, POA members will receive an 80% discount off the regular fee, which will result in a charge of only $50 per member. 

The optometric profession has been asking for years for a program that would mirror the dental profession whereby consumers are reminded to see their dentist every six months. This is our chance to have such a program for optometry. The AOA and 16 other industry partners are supportive of TAYE advertising campaigns. These national advertisements can be found on TV, radio, social media, audio services such as Pandora and Spotify, as well as in digital and print editions of popular magazines. Please make an effort to attend the House of Delegates where this important opportunity and other topics of interest will be discussed and voted upon. Your opinions and votes matter. You are the POA.

The Congress schedule can be found here. There is still time to sign up for great continuing education, the exhibit hall, golf, and a night the Hollywood Casino and Penn National Racetrack for dinner and live racing.

I want to take this opportunity to cordially invite everyone to attend the President’s Reception on Friday evening at 9:30 p.m. Our special musical guest will be the Andy Mowatt quartet. My wife and I look forward to being your host for the evening.


Mark M. Margolies, O.D.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Presidents' Council

In January, I had the pleasure of attending the AOA’s Presidents’ Council meeting that took place from January 14 to 16 in Albuquerque, New Mexico with POA President-Elect Dr. Steven Eiss and POA Executive Director Dr. Charles Stuckey.
The purpose of this annual meeting is for the leadership of every state to exchange ideas and to learn from one another in order to effectively serve their respective state associations. Besides state leaders, there were also AOA committee chairs and members of the AOA Board of Directors in attendance.

Over the course of one and a half days, sessions on membership, non-dues income, advocacy, third party issues, how to run an effective meeting, working with the Board, and more were offered for attendees. These sessions alone would have been enough to consider the meeting a worthwhile endeavor; however, the POA was once again singled out as a state with a cutting edge member program. I am referring to the Pennsylvania Diabetic Eye Health Alliance (PDEHA). On Saturday morning, there was a session devoted to State Diabetes Initiatives and, besides the POA, only one other state, North Carolina, was asked to report on their program. Dr. Eiss gave a presentation before the entire group about the PDEHA and how POA members have benefited from this program. Specifically because of this program, Geisinger Health Plan reached out to our association and asked for our members’ help in providing comprehensive eye exams for their patients who are diabetic. You can watch Dr. Eiss’ presentation here:

If for some reason you are not familiar with this member only program, please go to the POA’s website at and click on the link in the section for the Pennsylvania Diabetic Eye Health Alliance. You can learn all about the program and sign up to participate right on the website. The more doctors who sign up, the stronger the program will be. The more representation we have across the state, the greater the ability we will have to work with other third-party payers in collaborative efforts to provide care to the diabetic patient.

I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that as licensed health care professionals in Pennsylvania, we are now required to obtain two hours of State Board-approved continuing education in child abuse recognition and reporting requirements as a condition of our license renewal, known as ACT 31. If you have not fulfilled this requirement yet, the POA is again offering you the opportunity on Saturday, March 12 at our 2016 Spring Contact Lens Symposium, which will be held at the Toftrees Resort in State College. There is still time to sign up. Please also check out the great contact lens education that will be provided on Sunday, March 13.

The POA Board of Directors and I look forward to seeing you soon at a local society meeting or continuing education event. Please mark your calendars for the POA Annual Congress which will take place May 13 to 15 at the Radisson Hotel in Camp Hill. This is “the members’ meeting,” when the House of Delegates will convene to conduct the business of our association. Please urge your local society representatives to attend so that your voice may be heard. Your local society participation is vital to ensure a strong and united POA!


Mark M. Margolies

Monday, December 28, 2015

Standing at the crossroads

Looking back on 30 years of optometric practice, I see that our profession has undergone some major changes. There was a time when optometry was known as “the drugless profession.” Thank goodness those days are in the past. I would not be able to practice the way I do today if I could not prescribe topical antibiotics, steroids or pressure-lowering agents. Without the volunteer structure of the POA and its members, none of this would have been achieved. However, we cannot stop now. We must plan to secure our future. To do this, I need your help in growing our membership.

Our profession is facing many challenges today. There are online contact sellers, online eyeglass retailers, companies that want to provide at-home refractions, HIPAA regulations, reduced reimbursements, vision plan policies that are not favorable to our practices, and so on. These challenges and more can be overcome if we have strong state and national associations. 

As a famous commercial once said, “Membership has its privileges,” and the POA is no exception to this. Please allow me to explain just a few benefits of POA membership.

Advocacy — Many organizations exist today that want to help the independent optometrist. However, the POA and AOA are the only organizations that can actually protect and advance our profession. There are no other organizations in optometry that will lobby on your behalf and represent the profession both in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. These benefits often seem intangible because it takes persistent effort over many years to achieve certain goals. I can assure you, however, that good things come to those who wait.

The POA is currently supporting the Eye Care Freedom of Choice legislation introduced by Senator Kim Ward. This piece of legislation attempts to restore a “level playing field” in the eye care industry and ensure both patient freedom of choice when selecting a provider and providers’ freedom of choice to choose materials, fabrication and source of products, and also ensure a uniform provider contract. 

The Pennsylvania Diabetic Eye Health Alliance (PDEHA) — Only POA members can become PDEHA members. Over 500 member doctors have signed on to this initiative so far and insurers are taking notice. As a direct result of this initiative, Geisinger Health Plan and the POA are working jointly to support the care of diabetic patients.
Electronic Claims Service — The POA is the only state affiliate with an electronic claims service with on-staff coding and billing experts. 

C&E Vision Buying Group — This benefit program provides members with substantial savings on the purchase of frames, contact lenses, ophthalmic equipment, and more, while at the same time giving you the opportunity to have your POA/AOA dues paid for you as a percentage of your purchases through the buying group. To join, simply call C&E’s Member Service Department at (800) 346-2626.

Free Marketing Materials — Kids Welcome Here® brochures and posters are available at no charge to POA members. Members of the PDEHA are also entitled to a free poster promoting yearly eye exams for diabetic patients.

Discounted Continuing Education — POA offers discounted continuing education programs for members; non-members pay nearly double for the same programs. Upcoming events include a continuing education weekend from March 12 to 13 in State College, POA’s Annual Congress from May 13 to 15 in Camp Hill, a continuing education cruise from July 2 to 7, and free (for members) online webinars available for one credit each on the POA website. 

Keystoner & Emails — Members may place classified advertisements for free in up to three consecutive issues. Other advertising opportunities are also available for members at a discounted price. The POA also sends out informative emails regarding upcoming events, local society meetings, legislative issues, and more. These means of communication are an exclusive member benefit aimed at keeping the association’s members up-to-date and informed.

The above are but a few benefits of membership. There are many other advantages to membership that I hope to highlight in future editorials. As members, we need to communicate these benefits to our unaffiliated colleagues and urge them to join. The POA can only be as strong as our membership will allow it to be. 

As I stand at the crossroads, I am honored and humbled to serve as your 2016 POA president. With the help of the 2016 Board of Directors, our committee chairs, and volunteers, together we can advance our profession and take it to the next level. I look forward to working with all of you so that we can make this profession stronger. Thank you for allowing me to be of service.

The POA Board of Directors and I want to wish all of you a very successful 2016!

Mark Margolies, O.D.
POA President

Friday, October 30, 2015

Thank you all

As this is my last editorial as president, I want to take the opportunity to say thank you. While I will continue on the Board for one more year as the immediate past president, and I will continue to be involved with the POA for as long as I’m practicing optometry, this experience has been unique and one I will certainly never forget. 
I would like to start by thanking the POA membership first and foremost. Thank you for putting your trust in me to serve as your president. It is truly an honor and a humbling experience. I appreciate the trust you put in me, and I have striven to always make decisions with the needs of all Pennsylvania optometrists in mind. With a little over two months to go in my presidency as I am writing this, I feel like it has been a successful year. Hopefully, if all goes well in the next several weeks, we will achieve at least some of our legislative goals before the year is over. 
To my fellow Board members, both the current Board and those I’ve served with over the last seven years, thank you. Despite all the time away from my family and office, and all the hard work and debate, I’ve always looked forward to the time spent working with each of you. I’ve learned a lot from you and made some great lifetime friends. As I approach the end of my service and I’m asked by the nominating committee to suggest members who should be considered for the Board, I am sorely tempted to suggest myself as a candidate for trustee in 2017. I have really enjoyed it that much. However, I also really enjoy being married, and I don’t think my wife would put up with another eight years, so I’m not actually going to do it. As a member of the association, I know we are in good hands moving forward and I’m excited to see where this terrific group of leaders takes us over the next few years.
Another dedicated group that deserves thanks is the volunteer members who have put in so much time and effort on behalf of optometry in Pennsylvania. My first presidential task was to ask a large number of colleagues to volunteer their time to serve on the various committees and task forces that implement the programs and achieve the goals that the Board sets. They give their time and talents willingly and without compensation, taking time away from business and family commitments while their efforts go largely unnoticed in many cases. Thank you all for your service.
Next, I really want to thank our POA staff. We all have dedicated staff members in our offices who go above and beyond their job descriptions to help our practices grow and thrive. Well, you all also have a great, dedicated staff working for you every day in Harrisburg. When I say every day, I mean it. It seems like they never stop working — even when they are not at the office, they are still working. I can’t count how many times I have sent an email after-hours or on a weekend, expecting to receive an answer on the next business day, only to hear back from the staff within an hour. They are truly dedicated to your profession, and exceed expectations every day. Deb, Ilene, Kelsey, and Charlie, words are not enough to express my thanks. Your ability to complete multiple special projects on time and beyond expectations, while still getting the everyday tasks of running the association done, amazes me regularly. I also want to give a special thanks to Joyce, who although she has been “retired” for almost two years, seems to answer the phone about half the time when I call the office, and is seemingly always there when I visit.
Lastly, thank you to those members who have taken the time to contact their senators in regard to the pending bills that will affect your practices for years to come. If you haven’t yet, please go to the POA website now, look at the legislation and talking points, and write, email, call, or visit your senator to express your support for SB 1012 and SB 978. 
Thanks again everyone,

Richard Christoph, O.D.
POA President

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

We are...POA!

I didn’t grow up in Pennsylvania, and I’ve never been a big college football fan, so when I moved to Reading and started to hear “We are...Penn State,” it was new to me. As an outsider, it really strikes me as a great chant because it stresses that the strength of the university is its community of students, alumni, and supporters. 
During my time as a volunteer leader with the POA, I often hear members asking, “What is the POA doing about this issue?” I think it’s much more positive if we develop a culture within our optometric association where we say, “What are we doing about this issue?”
I realize that every member can’t possibly be up to date on all the issues facing our profession. In reality, even the POA’s Board members and staff can’t be completely knowledgeable about every issue. It is always okay – even encouraged – to ask questions about how we are addressing issues and meeting challenges. But I would also like every member to see themselves as a contributing and involved part of the POA (and the AOA), even if just in a small way, like a Penn State alum who only makes it to one game a year and sits at the top of the stadium. It still feels like they are invested. 
We currently have three legislative initiatives that we are addressing in the Pennsylvania legislature. The first is Senator Ward’s bill to address inequities in the policies of third party vision plans. Hopefully you have heard the details of this bill before. The second is a bill sponsored by Senator Gordner to remove outdated restrictions from our practice act. There is also a bill introduced by Senator Argall and supported by the PA Academy of Ophthalmology that seeks to restrict our profession by placing a definition of ophthalmic surgery in the medical practice act. If we are going to be victorious in advancing two positive pieces of legislation, and defend against an attempt to set us back, it is going to take contributions from every member. These contributions need to be in both time and donations. 
Firstly, we need every member to be involved in the grass roots effort to meet with legislators. We have a keyperson assigned to each Senator and House member. That doctor is expected to maintain a relationship with their assigned legislator and to meet with the legislator when there is a bill that would affect optometry in order to provide input. Ideally every other member of the POA would support their fellow member who is acting as a keyperson. When the legislator has a local fundraiser, we would like to have all the optometrists in the district attend, instead of just the keyperson. When the keyperson goes in to the legislator’s office to discuss a bill that is important to optometry, having a few other members go along increases the impact significantly. We do have paid lobbyists who work every day in Harrisburg to form relationships with legislators and try to influence them to vote favorably for optometry. However, the PA Academy of Ophthalmology, the insurance companies, and other groups that hold positions opposed to ours also have lobbyists. When a legislator hears from both lobbyists and constituents on an issue, it has a much greater impact. If you don’t know who your legislators are, you can easily look it up online. Google “Who is my PA legislator?” Follow the link to the State Senate and House of Representatives. If you don’t know who the POA keyperson is for your legislators, you can email and ask Ilene at the POA office.
Secondly, we need financial support. Hopefully everyone reading this editorial has heard of POPAC and realizes the importance of it. This money is used to make contributions to fundraisers for Pennsylvania legislators. Our lobbyists in Harrisburg attend many fundraisers on our behalf in Harrisburg, and it is our POPAC funds that allow them to do that. POPAC funds are also available (on a matching basis) for members to attend local fundraisers. We have made great strides in increasing our POPAC funds over the last two years. For that, I’d like to send a big thanks to Dr. Greg Caldwell and his POPAC Committee, along with all the members who have made contributions. If you have not made a contribution, please go the website or call the POA office to do that right now. A $500 yearly contribution qualifies for the POA’s incentive program, which returns the $500 in the form of eyeglass lenses and monetary credit toward POA continuing education programs. 
I realize this hasn’t been the inspirational half-time speech of a great college football coach, but hopefully you get the message and are inspired to think of yourself as part of our team of optometrists, working together to advance our profession.
We are...POA!

Rich Christoph, O.D.
POA President

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The POA’s organizational structure – a primer

After talking with many members at the POA’s Annual Congress last month, I realized that a number of our members – including some who are fairly involved – don’t completely understand the organizational structure of our association. So, for those who don’t know, here is a brief explanation.

Within the structure of the POA, we have 14 local societies throughout the state, with an additional local society for students at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University. Each is an independent entity with its own by-laws, officers, treasury, and policies. We also have several affiliated organizations, including the Pennsylvania Paraoptometric Association (PPA), the Vision Conservation Institute (VCI) and the Pennsylvania Optometric Political Action Committee (POPAC).

The POA is ultimately governed by its members via the House of Delegates (HOD). The HOD normally meets once per year at our Annual Congress in the spring. When a vote is called for in the HOD, each local society (except the student society) has a voting strength based on the number of members in good standing within the society. In addition, the student society has one vote, the PCO representative has one vote, and all past POA presidents in attendance collectively have one vote. The HOD elects the POA Board of Directors (BOD), approves the budget, sets policy, and approves all expenditures from the reserve fund. Any member in good standing is eligible to attend the House of Delegates meeting and sit with the delegation from their local society. 

The POA Board of Directors consists of eight elected officers: immediate past president, president, president-elect, secretary-treasurer, and four trustees. Each of these offices is a one-year term. Once a member is elected as president-elect, he or she will serve one year in that office, one year as president, and one year as immediate past-president, without additional election – he or she automatically assumes each office. The trustees and secretary-treasurer are up for re-election each year. Most members of the Board will serve four years as a trustee and one year as secretary-treasurer before being nominated and serving as president-elect. 

Each member of the BOD has responsibility for one of the eight divisions of the volunteer structure, which is comprised of: Budget and Finance, Communications, Professional Services, State and National Affairs, Administration and Planning, Clinical Care, President, and Health Care. Each BOD officer is an optometrist and member of the association. They are volunteers, and are not compensated for their Board service. They are reimbursed for certain travel expenses. (e.g. Board meetings and, in the case of the president and president-elect, Optometry’s Meeting and President’s Council). The Nominating and Evaluating Committee nominates a slate of officers each year, based on their evaluation of the current Board and interviews with prospective Board members. Members may also be nominated from the floor at the HOD meeting after they have served as local society leaders and/or on POA committees.

The POA volunteer structure is extensive. Some committees involve multiple in-person meetings throughout the year in addition to regular email communication and individual committee assignments to complete by formal deadlines. Others involve much less time commitment and conduct most, or all, of their business via email or phone with flexible deadlines. Volunteers are unpaid for their time and work, typically not reimbursed for travel, and are appointed by the president.

The POA staff work from the association’s office in Harrisburg. They are responsible for completing the day-to-day tasks of running the association as directed by the Board and the HOD. They also assist the committees with certain tasks. The Board hires the executive director; he or she is responsible for the staff. Our current staff consists of:

Charlie Stuckey, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Executive Director

Deb Blanchard
Chief Operating Officer

Ilene Sauertieg
Director of Education and Conferences

Kelsey Rodkey
Communications Coordinator

Joanne Cope, Joyce Tesoriero
(and part-time data entry staff)
Electronic Claims Service

Joyce Reiner, CAE (retired)
Special Assignments

The POA also uses various paid consultants for certain tasks. These are generally contracted professionals, such as legal counsel, lobbyists, and investment advisers. Our current consultants are: 
Greg Knight, Esq.
Legal Counsel
Ted Mowatt, Mike Long, Amy Long
Fischer Financial Services

Hopefully this overview gives you a better understanding of the POA structure.

Richard Christoph, O.D.
POA President