Bill aims to help optometry serve the underserved

AOA is making a new push to reinstate ODs into the National Health Service Corps (NHSC).

Although ODs are often at the front lines of eye health and vision care, they’ve been excluded from certain federal health programs open to other providers, such as NHSC. AOA has long maintained that such exclusions bar access to essential eye health and vision care.

 

On March 4 Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), a key member of the House Republican leadership, reintroduced a bill (H.R. 1312) that would amend the Public Health Service Act to allow ODs to participate in the NHSC scholarship and loan repayment programs. The bipartisan bill has six original co-sponsors, all of whom are members of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee. This includes Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who sponsored the legislation with Rep. McMorris Rodgers in the last Congress.

 

AOA at its upcoming Congressional Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., plans to make the NHSC bill a top priority. The legislation would essentially increase eye and vision care access in medically underserved areas, including some of the nation’s community health centers.

 

Support has been building on Capitol Hill for this legislation. In the last Congress, the NHSC bill had 145 co-sponsors, the highest number of co-sponsors yet for the bill. In addition, report language in the final spending bill of the 113th Congress directed the federal government to evaluate the possibility of recognizing ODs as primary care providers within NHSC.

 

AOA is urging its members to join the hundreds of ODs and students on Capitol Hill to fight for the NHSC bill and other priorities at the 2015 Congressional Advocacy Conference, which will take place in Washington, D.C., April 12-14.