WASHINGTON, April 19, 2018 ―The American Academy of Ophthalmology is honoring nine members of Congress whose legislative efforts are helping to preserve patient access to quality medical and surgical eye care. The Academy is presenting its 2018 Visionary Awards to Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., Rep. George Holding, R-N.C., Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah.
The Academy presents its Visionary Award each year in conjunction with its annual legislative visit to Capitol Hill. This honor recognizes federal legislators for important efforts to advocate for issues that benefit the more than 50 million Americans who experience significant eye disease.
Sen. Murkowski led an important effort to expand underserved Native American populations’ access to diabetic retinopathy screenings. Native Americans’ rates of this blinding ailment are higher than that of the broader U.S. Sen. Murkowski helped secure $1 million to upgrade retinal cameras used by an important Indian Health Service teleophthalmology program. The cameras are used to reach patients in the most rural areas.
Reps. Carter and Stewart are ardent defenders of the need for physicians to access compounded and repackaged medications on which many patients rely. Ophthalmologists use these drugs to treat patients who suffer from wet age-related macular degeneration and other sight-threatening diseases.
Sens. Carper and Roberts and Rep. Paulsen were instrumental in preserving access to specialty medical eye care for every patient, including retina treatments. They led requests that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services forgo a planned application of quality-program penalties to reimbursements for in-office, physician-administered treatments. Such a policy could have made it too expensive for many retina specialists to practice in their chosen community. This might have forced some ophthalmologists to relocate to more sustainable markets.
Rep. Holding is at the forefront of efforts to reform the Medicare Advantage prior authorization process. This is to ensure that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries’ medically necessary care is not delayed beyond what is reasonable. For example, some plans require prior authorization for each visit for age-related macular degeneration, a sight-threatening disease that requires regular, injected treatments. This administrative step can cause delays that are unnecessary barriers to care.
Reps. Lance and Rush are leading a congressional effort to protect the safety of millions of patients who require contact lens prescriptions. They are working with the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of physicians and patients who want to combine strong patient health protections with assurances that consumers continue to receive their contact lenses in a timely manner.
“More than ever, the partnerships between the nation’s ophthalmologists and our congressional lawmakers are making high-quality medical eye care available to every patient in the U.S.,” said Keith D. Carter, MD, FACS, president of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “We pledge to continue fostering these relationships to improve our nation’s health care system to ensure timely access to critical treatments for eye diseases.”
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.
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.