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American Optometric Association Applauds Override of Medicare Cuts

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 General News J E 4
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WASHINGTON, July 15 The American OptometricAssociation (AOA) applauds Members of Congress from both parties for voting tooverride President Bush's veto of legislation passed to stop massive cuts inthe Medicare program.

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

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

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

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

In addition to blocking the 10.6 percent cut, the measure also preventsthe 5 percent pay cut scheduled to begin Jan 1, 2009. The bill also extends a0.5 percent payment update through December 31, 2008 and provides a positiveupdate of 1.1 percent for 2009 while blocking implementation of a proposedDMEPOS (durable medical equipment/prosthetics, orthotics and supplies)accreditation restriction, which the AOA strongly opposed. The measure alsoprovides Congress with a full 18 months to find a solution to the flawedMedicare-sustainable growth rate (SGR) payment formula, which preventsimplementation of an unfair DMEPOS regulation that threatens to deny ourMedicare patients' access to post-surgical eyewear.

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

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

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association represents approximately 36,000doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants andtechnicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities acrossthe 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 UnitedStates.

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 providingeye and vision care, optometrists play a major role in a patient's overallhealth and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes andhypertension.

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