2019 California Optometric Association House of Delegates Report

The 2019 COA House of Delegates met for its annual meeting on March 1st and 2nd in San Francisco. Our Society had a great delegation of 16 participants who traveled by plane to the Marriott Hotel on the wide, placid Bay Shore, located conveniently near the airport. The COA HOD demonstrates to me how our independent profession of optometry can govern itself in a positive working fashion. There were several orders of business that took place at HOD, and some that I would like to share with our membership.

The State of the Association Address was given by Ranjeet Bajwa, O.D., COA President.  He spoke of the need to counteract online eye exams and online vision testing because of the risk they pose to consumers. COA is steadfast in their opposition to this opportunistic, disruptive technology, as it confuses the public and trivializes the importance of ocular disease detection, while giving at best an inaccurate prescription for our patients’ needs. He noted that online eye examinations eliminate the doctor-patient relationship. After that, Dr. Bajwa spoke of a new bill, AB1467, Salas and Low, which is about ODs using new procedures to treat glaucoma.

Three elected representatives were welcomed to speak at this year’s HOD. We were addressed by California Assembly member Kevin Mullin. He spoke of the importance of ODs in our state and our increasing responsibilities to improve patient access to care. We were then addressed by Assembly member Phil Ting and, later in the day, Assembly member David Chiu. He spoke of healthcare practitioner shortage and how we must expand access to care.  He stressed that our wonderful profession provides home-grown practitioners with cultural competency to best serve Californians.

We were also addressed by Barbara Horn, O.D., AOA president-elect, who gave a relevant talk about AOA’s recent successes. She spoke of their progress in protecting us from adversaries who want to force optometrists to keep on file signed contracts for each patient as proof that we offered CL Rx’s at each visit. Studies show an average of $18K per office would be spent to implement this onerous mandate.  Dr. Horn then stressed the success of AOA’s “Think About Your Eyes” national advertising campaign which every COA member now has. Dr. Horn stated that “Think About Your Eyes” raises public awareness, having generated 2.3 million web portal visits and almost 4 million eye examinations since its inception. She also invited us to attend the AOA Congress this June 19-23rd, to take place in St Louis.

Two policy resolutions passed by the Delegates in the House included the following: First, the House voted to adopt the present ascending dues schedule that is currently in use. Second, the House voted to support the COA in a future endeavor to work, support, and interact with the California Board of Optometry. This is with the positive intention of improving the number of independent ODs serving on the State Board of Optometry.

Our Society received the “Website of the Year Award,” and we must thank our 2018 Webmaster Committee Chair, Dr. Susan Cervantes, for her leadership and creativity that resulted in the winning website. Congratulations and thanks to all who have also contributed to our website including: Dr. Stephanie Le, Dr. Lucia Millet, Dr. Nickolet Boermans, Nancy-Jo Sinkiewicz, and Steve Sicherman of EyeCarePro.

COA Optometrist of the Year was awarded to James R. Dallas, O.D. of Barstow, CA.

COA is introducing a new Strategic Plan and following there was a lively discussion with much input from the Delegates. The Strategic Plan divides a square onto four parts and focuses on Market, Services, Governance, and Operations. Each of these tenets are then contextualized and improved upon.

The floor adjourned temporarily, and called to order the Annual Meeting of the Public Vision League. Complaints leading to investigations that result in legal action are performed by the PVL. False advertising by an optical corporation and a bait-and-switch contact lens company were both discussed. The PVL and the COA would like to know of your encounters with eye patients that have been abused or harmed by any of the above, and/or missed diseases by online vision testing companies. In addition, if our Society members have questions about AB 684-Corporate Leasing-Protection for Doctors-Enforcement, contact the COA for a fact sheet or talk to the COA staff about your specific legal questions.

The contested election of COA Trustees resulted in our very own Dr. Erin Swift being elected to COA Trustee.  Congratulations Dr. Swift! In addition, our own SDCOS member, Dr. Amanda Dexter will continue her term as COA Trustee. Our society is fortunate to have dedicated members who aspire to the highest levels of COA leadership. Thank you to Amanda and Erin for your dedicated service to California optometry and for representing our Society in this exemplary manner at a high state level!

Dr. Jason Tu was elected to COA President-elect! Dr. Tu is our fellow member of SDCOS, and he is another reason why SDCOS is America’s finest optometric society. Congratulations, Jason, we are fortunate as a Society to have you representing us at the summit of the state level!

Our new COA President, Ronald G. Seger, O.D. of Mountain View, CA was installed and gave an address to the House. He talked of the consolidation of optometric business and measured reduction of self-employed optometrists, and how reduced self-employment has been linked to lack of freedom, lower career satisfaction, and decline of self-actualization. He stated that in the U.S., purchases by private equity groups have increased. He emphasized that the successful factor in optometric practice is the trust and strong professional relationships we share with our patients. Dr. Seger asks that each of us work to make optometry strong and patient care excellent.

The next COA event will be Legislative Day in Sacramento on April 10, 2019. I encourage our ODs to travel to our state capitol and join forces on Leg. Day, as there are many optometric issues of the day to discuss with our elected legislators. COA will teach us about the issues in the morning, supplying us with talking points regarding bills that could potentially threaten our profession, as well as bills that would allow us increased freedom of practice. Please let me know if you are interested in participating!