• American Academy of Ophthalmology Honors Five Members of Congress for Efforts to Ensure Quality Medical Eye Care

    Visionary Awards recognizes policy and legislative efforts on behalf of patients

    WASHINGTON, April 14, 2016 ―The American Academy of Ophthalmology is honoring five Members of Congress for their outstanding legislative efforts to advance the quality of eye care available in the United States. The Academy is presenting its 2016 Visionary Awards to Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D., R-La., and Reps. Phil Roe, M.D., R-Tenn., Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., Raul Ruiz, M.D., D-Calif., and Ami Bera, M.D., D-Calif.

    Each year in April, in conjunction with its annual legislative visit to Capitol Hill, the Academy presents the awards to members of Congress who are leaders in supporting issues important to ophthalmologists and their patients. The awards recognize individuals for important efforts to advocate for enhancing and preserving access to quality eye care in the United States.

    Advancing consumer protections for electronic health records

    Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D., R-La.

    Sen. Cassidy introduced legislation to help ensure that certified health information technology systems meet expectations. His bill, the Transparent Ratings on Usability and Security to Transform Information Technology (TRUST IT) Act of 2015, would improve care by enabling providers and patients to get the information they need when they need it. It would also require the Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology and the Office for Civil Rights to update its website to ensure patients better understand the rights they have to access their personal health information. 

    The legislation would also would require the establishment of an electronic health record vendor rating system to hold them accountable. It would require vendors to publish results of product performance on their website for three areas: security, usability and interoperability. These published ratings would help bring transparency to the health IT market and enable consumers to compare different products based on performance. 

    Preserving patient access to sight-saving, cost-effective medications

    Rep. Phil Roe, M.D., R-Tenn.
    Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y.

    Reps. Roe, Tonko and Ruiz are spearheading an effort to help ensure access to Avastin for ophthalmic applications. This is a safe, cost-effective drug used by ophthalmologists in the treatment of a serious eye disease, age-related macular degeneration. Millions of patients with macular degeneration face potential blindness if they do not receive regular treatments. In its efforts to enact stronger regulations for compounded and repackaged biologics, such as Avastin, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is recommending restrictions that severely limit the option of using Avastin for critical treatment of macular degeneration during the patient’s initial visit.

    Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D., D-Calif.

    This would unintentionally force unreasonable cost burdens on patients and the Medicare system if ophthalmologists are forced to use costlier treatments as a first option. Reps. Roe, Tonko and Ruiz generated a letter from members of the U.S. House of Representatives raising this issue to the FDA. The letter urges the agency to abandon current policies that unreasonably restrict access to compounded and repackaged prescription drugs such as Avastin.

    Preserving cost assurance for Medicare patients through bundled prices for surgery

    Rep. Bera led a successful initiative in the U.S. House of Representatives urging house leaders to reverse a decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to rescind a new Medicare rule to end global payments for surgical procedures starting in 2017. Ophthalmologists are among the many medical specialists who contend that such a policy will confuse beneficiaries. It will also create an administrative burden for surgeons by unbundling the services that are presently covered for all necessary services before, during, and after a surgical procedure. This legislative fix ensured that patients will continue to know upfront what surgical procedure and post-operative care will cost them, including their out-of-pocket expenses.

    Ami Bera
    Rep. Ami Bera, M.D., D-Calif.

    “The efforts of these legislators and their tremendous commitment to health care are critical for ensuring that our nation’s eye physicians and surgeons can continue to serve our patients.” said David W. Parke II, M.D., CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The Academy is appreciative of their partnership in helping to enhance quality eye care and ophthalmologists’ ability to deliver it in a sustainable manner.”

    The Academy is the leading voice for the profession of ophthalmology in Washington. The organization takes an active role in working with Congress and government agencies on policy issues that affect how medical and surgical care is provided in the United States.

    Read about previous Visionary Award winners from 2015, 2014 and 2013.

    About the American Academy of Ophthalmology

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit www.aao.org.

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