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Ophthalmic Council addresses health care reform, economy

May 17, 2012

Dave Plogmann, senior vice president of executive optical partnerships for Luxottica, speaks at the Ophthalmic Council meeting.

With the economy gaining steam, ophthalmic industry leaders had health care reform on their minds as the Ophthalmic Council™ met in New York in March.

Formed in 1998, the Ophthalmic Council™ serves as an informal forum for leaders of the ophthalmic industry and the AOA to take an active role in addressing key issues and communicating respective ideas and concerns while enhancing and advancing the ophthalmic industry to better serve patients and consumers.

The guest speaker, Dan Crippen, Ph.D., is the executive director of the National Governors Association, the only bipartisan organization of the nation’s governors.

“The only meaningful way to get costs down is to keep people out of institutions – hospitals and nursing homes,” he said. “Everything else is just tinkering at the margins.”

He cited children’s asthma attacks as an example where care could be delivered more cost-effectively.

Knowing that a child is prone to asthma, and what treatment has worked in the past, parents and doctors should be able to treat the condition without a visit to the ER, Dr. Crippen noted.

Dr. Crippen said that ODs, who can detect multiple chronic, systemic diseases during an eye exam, are positioned well to help streamline care and counsel patients.

Among the 13 companies represented, most were looking at health care reform as a business opportunity.

“We’re viewing reform as neutral,” said Dave Gibson of Allergan. “More patients will have access, but there will be costs in terms of pharma, such as rebates.”

Dave Sattler of Alcon expects some of the rising costs of health care to be offset as “potential revenue sources, such as rules and fines, are expanded.”

Howard Purcell, O.D., of Essilor, said the health care law has already “affected hiring and businesses we are going into.”
From a provider perspective, Howard Braverman, O.D., observed ODs are not “preparing ourselves for the new patients that could be coming in.”

New optometry patients could number in the tens of millions, depending on how regulations are written and benefits defined.

Mark Colip, O.D., chair of the AOA’s Research and Information Committee, outlined data from the AOA’s latest surveys. He said there is almost equal division of payers right now.

Almost 23 percent of patients have private insurance, 22 percent are covered by VSP, 21 percent have no insurance coverage, 19 percent have another vision plan and 15 percent are on public assistance.

According to AOA data, only 4 percent of the patients seen by ODs are under the age of 5. Children from 5 to 17 are just 14.5 percent of the patient base.

All attendees agreed children are being underserved in eye care right now.

In addition, AOA Industry Relations Center Executive Committee Chair Howard Braverman, O.D., announced his retirement after serving as chair of the committee since 2002. Dr. Braverman was president of the AOA in 2000-2001 and has served in other leadership positions, including the Florida Optometric Association and Southern Council of Optometrists and was chair of the Florida State Board of Optometry.

AOA Immediate Past President Joe Ellis, O.D., is the incoming chair of the Industry Relations Center Executive Committee.

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