WASHINGTON, April 11, 2019 ― The American Academy of Ophthalmology is honoring three Members of Congress who are working to ensure that patients have access important, sight-saving eye care, regardless of where they live or what ails them. The Academy is presenting its 2019 Visionary Awards to Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Penn., along with Reps. Andy Harris, MD, R-Md., and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa.
Each year, in conjunction with its annual legislative visit to Capitol Hill, the Academy presents this award to members of Congress who are leaders in supporting issues important to ophthalmologists and their patients. It recognizes individuals for important efforts to advocate for enhancing and preserving access to quality eye care in the United States.
Expanded access to screenings for chronic eye disease
Currently, telehealth services for chronic eye disease are restricted to areas where there are provider shortages. Lifting such restrictions would help patients who would benefit from expanding access to screenings for diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Sen. Casey is shepherding the Screenings for Eye Evaluation, Monitoring, Observation, Review and Examination (SEE MORE) Act through the Senate as a means for addressing this issue.
The bill applies to Food and Drug Administration-approved ocular imaging techniques and technologies, including artificial intelligence technologies. This legislation would lift geographic restrictions, opening the door for those in urban areas to access this type of care. The Academy strongly supports such legislation because it will eliminate an existing barrier in Medicare that prevents a broader adoption of telehealth in eye care.
Ensuring all communities have access to quality medical eye
Access to quality medical eye care in every community is easier achieved when physicians can succeed financially in small towns and counties nationwide. Rep. Harris, an anesthesiologist, worked effectively on behalf of eye care by urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to set fair reimbursement rates for glaucoma and retinal detachment, two ailments that disproportionately impact our nation’s minorities and rural communities.
Rep. Loebsack sponsored the Access to Frontline Health Care Act, a bill which would create a loan repayment program for specialty providers, including ophthalmologists, who are willing to practice in underserved areas. Frontline areas are defined by the federal government as having a shortage of health practitioners or essential health care services. The loan program would allow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to make student loan repayments in exchange for health professionals providing two years of service in a health care facility serving a frontline scarcity area.
“Ophthalmologists provide high-quality medical eye care and readily share the lessons gleaned from our day-to-day interactions with our patients. It’s up to our nation’s lawmakers to develop policies and statutes that enable our continued ability to protect sight,” said George A. Williams, MD, president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Senator Bob Casey, MD, along with Reps. Andy Harris, MD, and Dave Loebsack, are true stewards of federal health care policies that ensure ophthalmologists’ continued ability to deliver quality care in every community.”
The Academy is the leading voice for the profession of ophthalmology in Washington, D.C. 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.
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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