Over 350 ophthalmologists met with Congress on Thursday, Apr. 26, with the hope to raise awareness about contemporary threats to eye care. They intended to express the need for dialogue on eye disease prevention, and treatment for millions of Americans suffering from vision loss.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) stood before Congress and said that an estimated 50% of Americans will be afflicted with an eye disease at some point in their lives. These diseases include age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma.
Pending cuts in spending for Medicare could hinder patients’ access to screenings and treatments that could save their sight.
The AAO had three priorities this year for Congressional Advocacy Day:
– Protecting patient access to quality eye care and preventing blindness. Stable funding and reimbursement for Medicare — including eye disease screening and treatment — is critical to prevent unnecessary vision loss. The Academy played a key role in persuading Congress to stop revent Medicare physician pay cuts that threatened ophthalmologists’ ability to provide quality patient eye care.
– Advancing research for new eye disease treatments. Congress should provide adequate funding for vision research, including $730 million for the National Eye Institute.
– Alleviating public confusion about health care providers. The Health Care Truth and Transparency Act (H.R. 451) would help patients better understand the different roles and responsibilities of their health care providers.
“Public policy plays a pivotal role in promoting healthy vision for all Americans. We invite Congress to join with us in stopping unnecessary vision loss in the U.S. and providing the best possible care and treatment to patients with eye disease,” said CEO of the AAO, David W. Parke, M.D.
The AAO asked for $32 billion for the federal fiscal year 2013 to fund research in the National Institutes of Health, including the aforementioned $730 million for the National Eye Institute.
“The American Academy of Ophthalmology is asking Congress to stabilize Medicare funding to safeguard eye care for millions of older Americans,” said Parke.
“As more and more baby-boomers enter Medicare, it is increasingly important that policies are in place to support their eye care needs, including prevention and treatment of age-related eye disease. Ultimately, good public policy has the power to help eye M.D.s fight blindness.”