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  • Advocating for Patients and the Profession at Mid-Year Forum 2015

    Purnima S. Patel, MD, Academy YO Committee chair, moderates the 2015 L.E.A.P. Forward program. Advocacy Ambassador Amanda H. Tang, MD, said, “I came to the conference not really knowing if politics was for me, and I left feeling inspired to make a difference for my profession.”

    The Academy’s annual Mid-Year Forum brings together Academy members and other ophthalmic leaders to learn about legislative and regulatory issues facing ophthalmology and to meet with federal lawmakers to help shape public policy. Hearing topics in 2015 included payment trends in the insurance marketplace; electronic health record systems; access to compounded medicines; evaluating payer contracts; and surviving audits. Mara Liasson, a National Public Radio national political correspondent, gave an address on politics and elections at the awards banquet.

    The Academy honored five members of Congress for their outstanding efforts to advance the quality of eye care. The Academy presented its Visionary Award to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.; Rep. Tom Price, MD, R-Ga.; and Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas; in special ceremonies on Capitol Hill and during the opening session.

    During the 2015 Congressional Advocacy Day, a record 403 ophthalmologists met on Capitol Hill with their senators and representatives or legislators’ staff to present the concerns and positions of the profession. As a result of these discussions:

    • Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., crafted a new bill, the Further Flexibility in HIT Reporting and Advancing Interoperability (Flex-IT 2) Act or H.R. 3309.
    • The Truth in Health Marketing Act (H.R. 1741) gained additional cosponsors.
    • The House of Representatives approved H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act. The bill includes $8.75 billion in mandatory funding for the NIH and authorizes increased funding levels for the NIH by $1.5 billion per year for the next three fiscal years.

    A record 161 Academy Advocacy Ambassadors attended the Mid-Year Forum’s pilot session, L.E.A.P.(Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy, Practice Management) Forward. This program educated members in training on the importance of advocating for their profession; active participation in state and subspecialty societies; and critical issues in medicine. Advocacy Ambassador Mehul C. Patel, MD, said, “It was an eye-opening opportunity for all of us, and by far the L.E.A.P. Forward program Friday morning (after having to be on call all day and all night Thursday, too!) was as valuable as the day before on the Hill.”