Legislation is an important part of how we, as optometrists, are able to practice to the full scope of our training while increasing access to patients who benefit from our clinical expertise. As with previous years, COA has put together an agenda outlining which bills it supports and how we, as primary eye care providers, can engage with our local legislatures to let them know what we need from them in order to improve eye care for the citizens of our great state! Below I want to emphasize a few bills in this year’s legislature that the San Diego County Optometric Society would like you to be aware of, and hopefully, participate in the legislative process.
AB 1110 (Burke)
AB 1110 gives every child the opportunity to have a comprehensive eye exam needed to succeed and ensure clear vision for life. The bill requires each child to have a comprehensive eye exam upon school enrollment. It also respects parental choice by imposing no “opt-out” penalties to parents who choose to forgo their child’s right to an eye exam. Most eye exams and glasses for children come at no cost to families. Under the Affordable Care Act, eye exams and glasses are covered for children. AB 1110 helps parents utilize this benefit and understand that eye exams play an important role in their children’s overall health. Current school screening requirements check for distance and near visual acuities along with a color vision screening and a gross external evaluation of the eyes for obvious eye turns and physical defects. By requiring a comprehensive eye exam by an eye care provider, we will be able to screen for subtle defects that can have a profound effect on a child’s ability to learn (remember that 80% of learning is visual)! Eye tracking, convergence, accommodation, and depth perception screening, along with a comprehensive medical evaluation for eye disease, will be required for all students entering school. Currently, the bill is set for hearing in the Assembly Education Committee on April 5. The bill has garnered support from both Republicans and Democrats. Many Assembly Members from San Diego (Todd Gloria, Rocky Chavez, Shirley Weber) are on the Education Committee and I encourage all of you to reach out to your representative in support of AB 1110.
AB 1092 (Cooley)
At the request of VSP, Assembly Member Ken Cooley has introduced AB 1092, a bill that would restore Medi-Cal coverage of one pair of eyeglasses provided every two years to an individual 21 years of age or older. This bill is co-authored by Senators Jim Nielsen, Toni Atkins and Jeff Stone and Assembly Member Evan Low. This bill is set for hearing April 4 in the Assembly Health Committee.
AB 443 (Salas)
After last year’s stunning defeat of SB 622, COA has decided the overhaul its entire scope of practice legislation. Assembly Member Rudy Salas has introduced AB 443, a spot bill that will ultimately be amended to expand the scope of practice of optometry. Assembly Member Salas is the chair of the Assembly Business and Professions Committee, the committee through which scope of practice legislation must move. COA is pleased Assembly Member Salas wants to pursue this legislation and looks forward to working with him to craft legislation that will expand access to health care for millions of Californians. Currently the bill is still being written.
Finally, I just wanted to review COA’s Legislative Day for 2017. In years past, April has traditionally been the time that we, as an organization, descend upon the state legislature in Sacramento to educate our representative about how optometrists can provide greater care for our fellow citizens. This year, COA has decided to change the plan and focus more on legislatures in their local districts. Personally, I think this is a wonderful idea that will save costs and allow more local doctors to meet with the Assembly Members in their home districts. While the previous Legislative Days have been a great experience in traveling to the capitol and understanding how the legislative process works, this time COA plans on focusing on educating Assembly members who vote against the interests of optometrists and the patients that we serve. No current dates have been set in San Diego County but rest assured that COA is currently in the process of organizing meetings with our local representatives. Be on the look-out for more information to come!