Some years ago, I was talking with another optometrist about the monetary value of COA membership when she made a poignant statement that’s stayed with me ever since. It was a simple point that propelled me to pay my dues without reluctance or at least, with much less reluctance.
After I’d commented on the cost of dues, she replied by asking, “But how much does a lawyer cost?” Then she said, “COA functions as our lawyers. It keeps our profession operating at the legislative level.”
I was quick to realize that lawyers are expensive, and that my dues payment was a bargain relative to legal bills. My optometrist friend was illustrating how our profession is a legislated profession: legislation can make us or break us, and the laws that define us are under constant adversarial pressure. In addition, it’s our responsibility to adapt and advance with the times both as a collective profession and as individuals, to continually increase the care we’re able to provide our patients. All of this has a monetary cost, and our collective dues make the endeavor affordable to us.
Our ability to organize as an Association gives us legitimacy in the eyes of politicians. The very existence of our ability to practice is based on state laws, and while we’re relatively powerless as individual optometrists, we have a strong voice as an organization.
There are countries in the world where optometry flourishes; there are other countries where it doesn’t even exist. It all depends on the laws in place and on our ability to make ourselves heard. As organized OD’s we are the COA.
With that being said, I wanted to give you all a brief outline of some of the membership benefits you may not be aware of:
- AOA and COA are constantly fighting legislative battles to protect our profession. These include initiatives to improve our reimbursements and prevent cuts in reimbursement, allow ODs to be included in certain federal incentive programs, and prevent discrimination of ODs on insurance panels.
- The recent successful passage of AB 443 has expanded our scope of practice. Additionally, last year, because of COA, California became the only state to allow TPA-certified OD’s to administer flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccinations.
- Think About Your Eyes is an exclusive public information marketing campaign offered by the AOA and available to COA members at a reduced fee.
- COA offers a free, continually-growing library of in-depth fact sheets addressing a wide variety of scope of practice and practice operation topics.
- The Member Media Center (MMC) through the COA website offers content for members to use in their newsletters and social media sites to help inform the public about important eye issues.
- COA has a Member Resource Center in which there are dedicated COA staff members who are available to answer common practice-related questions- from the steps to take to get on a health plan’s medical panel, to employment and workers’ compensation issues.
- Eyelearn is an online benefit exclusively offered to AOA members that is comprised of an easy-to-use centralized online learning resource with access to journal articles, webinars, practice management resources, etc.
- Business and Career Success webinars are offered by AOA with topics including medical records and coding, HIPAA updates, PQRS, malpractice, etc.
- COA provides constant updates on various topics with Government Affairs Weekly emails, California Optometry (the official publication of the COA), COA Member News monthly newsletter, AOA’s daily First Look and weekly AOA Focus e-newsletters, and the monthly AOA Focus magazine.
- Discounts on continuing education events including Monterey Symposium, OptoWest, and AOA’s Optometry’s Meeting.
- Opportunities for free continuing education (12 hours annually) through articles in California Optometry as well as further CE online through CE@HomeOnline
- Great deals as COA members from Vision West buying group. Insurance programs through Mercer Insurance, and exclusive discounts for members on professional liability, workers’ comp, cyber liability, etc.
- To ensure state and federal compliance with labor laws, COA provides discounted subscriptions for mandatory posters.
- As a COA member there is an opportunity to enroll staff as AOA and COA Paraoptometric Members at no charge to aid in enhancing the skills and productivity of your staff.
- AOAExcel’s Medical Record and Coding Services allows you to consult an expert with questions regarding accurate choices for procedure and diagnosis codes, changes in Medicare coding policies, ICD-10 preparation and conversion, and participation in PQRS through AskTheCodingExperts@ExcelOD.com
- As an AOA and COA member you are listed on each website under the Find An Eye Doc search portals to assist the public in finding an you.
- Optometry’s Career Center through AOA provides a great placement service for opportunities throughout the lifecycle of a practice.
- The Legal Service Resources Program provides members up to one-half hour (30 minutes) of telephone and research work per month with an attorney at no cost. The program offers services that will assist members in areas of the law related the practice of optometry including Licensure, Business Taxes, Regulatory and Contract Issues to name a few.
Please utilize these tools! Our membership fees provide us with plenty of great opportunities that we should all take full advantage of. Not only are we protecting our profession by being a member of AOA, COA, and SDCOS, but we also are empowering ourselves with access to resources that allow us to succeed on a daily basis.