May 2024

The Policy Issue

Board members (l-r): Lisa Hamilton, OD; Richard Hults, OD; Milissa Stone; and Ken Kopolow, OD

By the SNAPP Board

With Optometry’s Meeting, the annual meeting of the American Optometric Association (AOA), coming up in June, and the AOA’s day on Capitol Hill held last month, it seems like a good time to reinforce that eye care is a legislated profession.

So with this issue, we offer a quick summary of some key legislative issues and initiatives that could use our support. The AOA’s work is national, so be sure to follow the news in your state as well. There are continuous threats and opportunities in eye care—and legislators need to know how their decisions impact the patients and customers we serve.

Federal bill HR 2474, Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act.
This bill would help bring needed stability to the Medicare payment system. In a nutshell, Medicare rates have not kept pace with inflation; today’s rates are roughly equal to the rates from 2012. Since many private payers base their rates on the Medicare structure, it is important that Congress strengthens Medicare coverage. The consequence is that optometrists might stop seeing patients with Medicare, putting additional pressure on those who do.

There are currently 133 co-sponsors to the U.S. House bill. Read more about it here.

Federal bills HR 1385 and S 1424, Dental and Optometric Care (DOC) Access.
This bill would combat costly and controlling practices of federally regulated vision and dental benefit managers. About 160 million people, or about two-thirds of Americans, are covered by vision benefit plans. These are often part of vertically integrated systems that can limit patient choices. The AOA and other supporters say federal action is necessary, because many of these plans side-step state-level laws, saying that they are federally regulated.

HR 1385 currently has 74 co-sponsors, and its Senate companion bill, S 1424, has six co-sponsors.

HR 2748, the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act.
This bill is supported by the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety, in which the AOA, CooperVision, EssilorLuxottica and Johnson & Johnson are partners. When Congress passed the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, it charged the Federal Trade Commission with enforcing contact lens prescription verification requirements. However, enforcement has been lax, and the FTC has interpreted the law to allow robocalls as a way to verify prescriptions.

A 2016 patient survey found that one-in-three patients were able to purchase contact lenses using an expired prescription. One-in-four patients reported receiving different medical devices than those prescribed by their eye doctor.

This act would help modernize the contact lens prescription verification process and make it simpler and safer for contact lens wearers.

HR 2748 currently has 38 co-sponsors in Congress. Its companion bill, S 4083, has been introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and co-sponsored by optometrist Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas.

The AOA offers this primer.

You Can Make a Difference

Ken Kopolow, OD, one of the SNAPP board members, attended AOA on the Hill in April in Washington, DC. He met with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Representative Dina Titus of Nevada to encourage their support of these three bills.

Dr. Kopolow meets with Sen. Cortez Masto (second from left)

You can do the same, he says. “The AOA encourages us to tell the stories of our patients and customers—the people in their district. How would passage of these bills improve the quality of care and quality of life for these patients? How would lack of progress potentially harm them? Those stories are powerful.”

Dr. Kopolow serves as secretary/treasurer of the Nevada Optometric Association. The work that Dr. Kopolow, the leaders and the members of the Nevada Optometric Association have been doing has earned recognition. The AOA just announced that the Nevada Optometric Association will receive the 2024 State Advocacy Award at Optometry’s Meeting in June.

He also advises people to be prepared. If you call or write to your legislators, be specific and clear. For example, “I’m encouraging ____ to co-sponsor/support bill ___ because ______.”

Compliance Updates

New Policies to Know

Two major policy initiatives have passed that are important for SNAPP members.

First, the Federal Trade Commission has passed a rule that effectively bans non-compete clauses. It’s a complex 570-page rule, but it essentially states that new non-competes cannot be imposed, and it eliminates the ability to enforce existing non-competes. Health care workers are covered. Indeed, the FTC noted that it specifically rejected the idea of exempting health care workers.

Practice Compliance Solutions details the rule here.

And the FTC created a fact sheet here.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act goes into effect on June 1. The law requires all employers to provide reasonable accommodation to all employees for pregnancy and related complications as long as the accommodations do not pose an undue hardship on the business. The law requires employers to have a “meaningful” discussion with workers requiring such accommodations prior to making any decision regarding undue hardship, says Practice Compliance Solutions, which has summarized the law here.

Childhood Myopia

The Myopia Collective Launches

On April 23, CooperVision and the American Optometric Association (AOA) launched The Myopia Collective, a partnership to rally the optometry profession and its allies to elevate the standard of care for children with myopia.

The conventional wisdom about myopia management has shifted over the years, especially as more evidence-based studies show the detrimental effects of high myopia and the efficacy of interventions.

There are two central components to The Myopia Collective. CooperVision and the AOA are encouraging people—inside and outside of optometry—to join the collective. These members will work to spread the word, educating the community and encouraging earlier intervention.

The second is to identify what the program calls Change Agents. These will be optometrists who want to do more than offer myopia management in their offices.

Applications to become a Change Agent close on May 17. While anyone interested can join The Myopia Collective, only optometrists can apply to become Change Agents.

Become a member here.

Apply to become a Change Agent here. Deadline is May 17.

Billing Tip of the Month From Helix

Keep Yourself and Your Patients Protected

In light of recent events, it’s important to validate that your practice ensures that logins, data and patient information are kept safe and secure. Below are some ways to check if the practice is doing just that.

1. Keep individual logins. It's time consuming, but providing dedicated, secure access to each person who requires entry can make a huge difference. Using your admin logins provides individual access to those who need it, ensuring login information isn’t shared.

2. Don’t save passwords on internet-based websites. In efforts to make it easier on the end-user, internet browsers offer the option for the user to save their username and password so that it pops up for them the next time they go to the website in which it is saved. When individual logins are provided, make sure to communicate to those who will be using the logins that they are not to save the passwords through their browser, as this can be an easy way for hackers to enter your systems without the practice being aware.

3. When multifactor authentication (MFA) is an option, use it. MFA can be a time suck, but think of how much of a time suck a data breach would be. MFA is a great way to ensure the actual user is the person entering the system by setting up a second form of verification. These can be a text message to that user’s cell phone or a code in that user’s authenticator app.

4. Use “update password” thresholds. If your practice management system or websites are equipped, ensure that users are required to change their passwords at a set cadence, such as monthly. This mitigates the ability of a potential hacker to continue using an obtained password for a long period of time.

5. Don’t send protected health information (PHI) by email and obtain an encrypted email service. Email is a great way for hackers to procure access to patient data. That said, don’t send PHI via email. Instead, invest in an email encryption service so that the patients’ information is protected.

6. Use encrypted websites to transfer data back and forth. If it is necessary to transfer PHI back and forth via a website, ensure that the website is encrypted and HIPAA compliant.

7. Be mindful of the shared information provided on websites your practice is using. When granting access to individuals for certain websites, make sure you are aware of all the information they will have access to. There may be another, more restricted, website that can give that person the information they need without providing too much.

Remember that a few minutes on the front end to keep patient data safe can save you valuable time and resources on the back end should a breach occur.

Reach out to the HELIX team with any other billing questions you have at this link; we might have the solution for you.

News of Interest

AI Might Boost Retinal Imaging

National Eye Institute researchers applied artificial intelligence (AI) to a technique that produces high-resolution images of cells in the eye.

They report that with AI, imaging is 100 times faster and improves image contrast 3.5-fold. The advance, they say, will provide researchers with a better tool to evaluate age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other retinal diseases. Read more.

Research Finds “Profound” Link Between Brain Health and Diet

Researchers at a university in the United Kingdom found that having a balanced and varied diet is associated with better mental health, superior cognitive functions and higher amounts of grey matter in the brain—linked to intelligence.

The study also supported the fact that the sooner a person eats a healthy diet, the better results they’ll have. Professor and lead author of the study Jianfeng Feng said, “developing a healthy balanced diet from an early age is crucial for healthy growth. Families and schools should offer a diverse range of nutritious meals and cultivate an environment that supports [students’] physical and mental health.” Read more.

Getty Images photo credits—Capitol: Free Agents Limited; what's new: ababil12; patient protection: Thapana Onphalai; AI eye: Yuichiro Chino; brain health/diet: YinYang

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