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American Optometric Association Applauds Override of Medicare Cuts
Date:7/15/2008

OPTOMETRISTS LEAD WINNING PATIENT ACCESS COALITION

WASHINGTON, July 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Optometric Association (AOA) applauds Members of Congress from both parties for voting to override President Bush's veto of legislation passed to stop massive cuts in the Medicare program.

Concerned optometrists from across the country have been calling Capitol Hill to urge their representatives in Congress to safeguard patient access to eye and vision care through Medicare. In spite of the President's veto earlier today, Congress has voted by an overwhelming majority to ensure that the AOA-backed bill to save Medicare is the law.

H.R. 6331 prevents a looming 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians and managed care plans and halts misguided new regulations governing durable medical equipment (DME) accreditation.

"Congress heard us loud and clear. Massive Medicare cuts would have severely hampered our mission to ensure that America's seniors have access to quality and affordable eye care. I'm proud of the role that optometry played in averting a Medicare meltdown and protecting patient access to care," said Dr. Peter Kehoe, O.D., AOA President.

The American Optometric Association is committed to increasing access to eye care for America's families, including working men and women, military service personnel, veterans, seniors and school-aged children. Comprehensive eye exams can help a child avoid school failure, lead to the diagnosis of other health problems in older Americans and help ensure that treatable diseases are caught early. Healthy vision is critical for everyone.

In addition to blocking the 10.6 percent cut, the measure also prevents the 5 percent pay cut scheduled to begin Jan 1, 2009. The bill also extends a 0.5 percent payment update through December 31, 2008 and provides a positive update of 1.1 percent for 2009 while blocking implementation of a proposed DMEPOS (durable medical equipment/prosthetics, orthotics and supplies) accreditation restriction, which the AOA strongly opposed. The measure also provides Congress with a full 18 months to find a solution to the flawed Medicare-sustainable growth rate (SGR) payment formula, which prevents implementation of an unfair DMEPOS regulation that threatens to deny our Medicare patients' access to post-surgical eyewear.

If Congress had not intervened, these pay cuts to doctors would have undoubtedly limited care and service for seniors and others who depend on Medicare, the AOA maintained.

"This is a hard won victory for our patients and shows how concerned doctors can make their voices heard in Washington, DC. On behalf of doctors of optometry in communities across the country, I want to thank all our supporters in the House and Senate who voted for this bill and committed to overriding the President unwarranted veto. Special thanks to Senators Edward Kennedy (MA), Max Baucus (MT) and Harry Reid (NV), Speaker Pelosi (CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (SC) who listened to their local optometrists and took the profession's pro-patient message to heart," said Kehoe.

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association represents approximately 36,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country, and in 3,500 of those communities are the only eye doctors. Doctors of optometry provide two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States.

American Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a major role in a patient's overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Prior to optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor's degree. Required undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students is extensive and covers a wide variety of advanced health, science and mathematics. Optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study concentrating on both the eye and systemic health. In addition to their formal training, doctors of optometry must undergo annual continuing education to stay current on the latest standards of care. For more information, visit http://www.aoa.org.

Liz Torrez,

312-255-3036

cell 773-580-5640

liz.torrez@hillandknowlton.com


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SOURCE The American Optometric Association
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