President’s Message

2022 California Optometric Association House of Delegates Report

The 2022 COA House of Delegates met for its annual meeting on February 10th and 12th. Although originally scheduled to take place in person in San Diego, in the end it was decided to be held virtually once again due to a rise in cases of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron. Hopefully, this will be the last time when it will be held via Zoom.

First off, I would like to congratulate our own Dr. Amanda Dexter for becoming the next COA President! We thank her for the relentless efforts and support to our local society, and now at state level. Well done, Dr. Dexter! We’re looking forward to your leadership!

Here are the highlights of the meeting.

On Membership – the pandemic took a toll on our revenue in 2020. As you are aware, dues were waived for all members for 2 months in 2020. In addition, over 300 dues waivers were applied in 2020. The good news is that dues grew nearly 3% in 2021, meaning we are starting to bounce back, and approach pre-pandemic levels. One aspect that you might not be aware is that maturing membership base and retirements cause a decrease in membership revenues. On the flip side, the ascending scale allows more new graduates to be retained and lead to full dues-paying membership.

The COA is working hard in engaging the students and the young ODs. In 2021 a few virtual events were created for them (i.e., New Grads, Careers and Networking, Town Hall, ODs on Finance) where close to 100 participants were present at each event. COA offers support to the young ODs with dedicated staff and student relations team. Outreach is achieved in numerous ways through student hub, OD resource guide, free COA events, and a student community on the COA app. And if you were not aware yet, yes, there’s in app for COA available now in the app store! COA member community will provide engagement opportunities for societies, teams, and subcommunities!!

COA will also start some pilot programs this year to better understand the market, conduct an analysis on members and non-members, and learn how it can provide more tangible benefits to increase market share. Measuring the CA OD market, we will hope to answer some questions on what is the perception of COA in the marketplace, and what benefits do CA ODs value and want.

Stay tuned for this survey coming out Spring/Summer 2022. Please participate in it, as it will have an impact on how COA moves forward.

On Advocacy – some important legislation was passed in 2021. AB 407 extended the scope of practice by eliminating the restrictive list of “allowed” drugs and conditions, and also authorized treatment of anterior segment conditions and IPL. Another law, AB 1534, prohibits now corporations that contract with physicians’ groups from interfering in an optometrist’s professional judgement. Law AB 691 was passed as well authorizing ODs to administer COVID-19 vaccines and perform CLIA-waived COVID-19 testing. And finally, SB 509 allows optometry school graduates to temporarily practice under supervision if they are unable to take NBEO Part III because of COVID-19.

In 2022, the COA’s advocacy will continue with priorities in scope expansion, Medi-Cal reimbursement rate increase, PIA-lab choice under Medi-Cal, and military personnel fee waiver.

On Health Care Delivery System – COA maintained relationships with VSP, EyeMed, and IEHP; it developed new relationships with Versant and Envolve; addressed billing issues of COA members; conducted membership survey on medical optometry. The priorities in 2022 are to develop more relationships with health plans, and communicate the value of optometry integration.

On Children’s Vision – The mission of COA Children’s Vision Team is to ensure children receive regular comprehensive eye exams. A social media campaign is being promoted as it’s a quick and easy way to spread the word about the importance of children’s eye exams. COA has created social media images for you to share with your patients. COA is also creating a directory of COA member optometrists who provide vision care to children. We plan to make this list available to parents and other health care providers. If you would like to be included, please complete the questionnaire on the COA website. And let’s not forget about the InfantSee program by Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation. It is designed to ensure that eye and vision care becomes an integral part of infant wellness care to improve a child’s quality of life. Consider joining this program as well.

The priorities for 2022 are to create a children’s vision directory, and the launch of “Little Eye Pods” podcast. Stay tuned!

On Public Vision League – in 2021 COA reviewed the health plan contracts for legal compliance; intervened in litigation to ensure ODs can choose a fair and neutral arbitrator in disputes with health care plans; answered over 300 legal questions from COA members.

2022 priorities are looking for opportunities to advance and protect optometry through litigation.

On California Vision Foundation – COA continued the partnership with helping Healing California organization by providing optometry and staff volunteers at free clinics across the country. If you’re not aware already, Healing California is a non-profit organization that provides free, quality dental, medical, and vision care to those in need in California. For vision services, they set up complete vision exam stations and a lens lab where volunteer optometrists, ophthalmologists, opticians, and lab techs provide full exams and fabricate custom prescription eyeglasses on-site. Please consider volunteer.

On a last note, the COA finance team together with the COA board of trustees made the decision to sell the COA office building – 2415 K St, Sacramento. The team found that the income projections for leasing the building against the costs to maintain and service the building were not substantial enough to warrant keeping the building as an asset. The team recommended the board to consider creating a task force to oversee the sale of the building, including financial options, and the appropriate allocation of the proceeds from the sale.

The next COA event will be Legislative Day on June 13 – 21 as a virtual program. I encourage as many of you to participate as possible as there are many optometric issues of the day to be discussed 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. Being virtual, it will be even easier to participate. Please let me know if you are interested!

Thank you for reading the newsletter. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!

Best wishes,