• Academy Honors Members of Congress for their Dedication to Advancing Quality Eye Care

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology is honoring five Members of Congress today for their outstanding legislative efforts to advance the quality of eye care available in the United States. The Academy is presenting awards to Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Tom Price, M.D., R-Ga., and Pete Sessions, R-Texas, in special ceremonies on Capitol Hill.

    Each year, the Academy presents its Visionary Award to members of Congress for their leadership in supporting issues important to ophthalmologists and their patients. This year's recipients are being recognized for various efforts to advocate for enhancing the quality of eye care in the United States.

    Protecting physicians’ rights and patients’ continuity of care
    Sen. Sherrod BrownSen. Sherrod Brown wrote a critical letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services asking the agency to withdraw a redundant government quality reporting requirement for centers performing cataract surgery. These measures are already reported by treating physicians, and not surgery centers, as part of their CMS quality reporting. As a result, in April 2014, CMS announced it was delaying implementation of the problematic reporting measure. In the 113th Congress, Sen. Brown also introduced the Medicare Advantage Participant Bill of Rights Act (S. 2552) that would have protected Medicare beneficiaries and providers by requiring more advanced notification and transparency when Medicare Advantage plans change their networks of providers.

    Facilitating dialogue between FDA and ophthalmology on new drug compounding laws
    Sen. Lamar AlexanderSen. Lamar Alexander for facilitating critical dialogue between ophthalmologists and the FDA. Following the enactment of the Drug Quality and Security Act (DQSA), which outlined more stringent safety guidelines for compounding pharmacies, the FDA was reluctant to meet with physicians and other stakeholder groups to discuss the Act’s impact. Ophthalmologists were anxious to speak with the FDA on how the law may affect access to bevacizumab (marketed as Avastin®), a drug that is more affordable than others in its class when used off-label to treat wet age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among older Americans. Sen. Alexander encouraged the FDA to hear the interests of stakeholders, which paved the way for a meeting with the agency. Sen. Alexander currently chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the 114th Congress. He will play a pivotal role in the oversight to get the DQSA implemented.

    Protecting access to eyelid and eyebrow surgery
    Reps. Vern Buchanan, Tom Price, M.D. and Pete Sessions for advocating to remove unnecessary hurdles to Medicare’s authorization of eyelid and eyebrow surgeries required to improve vision. Reps. Price and Buchanan are both members of the House Committee on Ways and Means and Rep. Sessions is the chairman of the House Committee on Rules.

    Rep. Vern Buchanan Rep. Tom Price, M.D. Rep. Pete Sessions
    Rep. Buchanan Rep. Price, M.D. Rep. Sessions

    “These legislators have demonstrated a tremendous commitment to health care by spearheading issues that are extremely important to ophthalmologists and our patients, such as promoting patient safety, ensuring continuity of care and making sure patients are provided choices in their treatment,” said David W. Parke II, M.D., CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “We commend our champions in Congress for their efforts, and look forward to continuing to collaborate with the House and Senate leaders on future steps to ensure American’s access to the highest quality eye care.”

    Information about previous Visionary Award winners can be found at www.aao.org, including those from 2014 and 2013.

    About the American Academy of Ophthalmology

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology, headquartered in San Francisco, is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, serving more than 32,000 members worldwide. The Academy's mission is to advance the lifelong learning and professional interests of ophthalmologists to ensure that the public can obtain the best possible eye care. For more information, visit www.aao.org.

    The Academy is also a leading provider of eye care information to the public. The Academy's EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit www.geteyesmart.org or www.ojossanos.org to learn more.