ST. LOUIS — In what the Missouri Optometric Association’s (MOA) government relations director Jay Hahn called a “constantly changing” area, MOA aims to assist Missouri optometrists navigate the medical field. With changes in medicine, however, are the possibilities of changes in legislature.
Like many others involved with state associations, Hahn said he also juggles multiple member-driven responsibilities — gathering lobbyists, monitoring regulatory issues, advocating to the General Assembly, communicating with departments to solve problems or seek clarification, as well as staying up to date on candidacies.
With its advocacy action, Hahn said the MOA has garnered consistent messages regarding various aspects of insurance, especially coverage.
“We will probably be approaching the General Assembly with some insurance concerns to help serve our members,” Hahn said.
Another constant message MOA members express, Hahn said, is the accessibility of patient healthcare. He said the MOA will continue to keep a close eye on the Affordable Care Act and “see how it unfolds as a whole and see how it affects the profession of optometry.”
On Aug. 28, House Bill 315 was enacted into law. This bill states a “health carrier or health benefit plan” must cover a prescription eye drop refill before “the last day of the prescribed dosage period.”
As long as patients seek permission from their health carriers, they need not worry about an early refill coverage restriction.
“Previously in Missouri, there were restrictions on early refills for maintenance eye drops and it created a scenario in which patients were, often times, running out of their prescription eye drops before their 30 days were up,” Hahn said. “So, they would have lag time in which they would have access to medicine they needed. Sometimes, that was to treat glaucoma or other medical conditions.”
As far as what’s next for optometrists and the Affordable Care Act, Hahn could not yet say.
“New regulations are being drafted every day,” Hahn said. “I don’t know if anyone knows what that’s going to look like in Missouri, so it puts pretty much all of us in the same boat.”
He said the MOA teamed up with the Missouri Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons to bring the bill to the General Assembly during last session. The bill, he added, was focused on patient care but was central to helping children and the elderly.
In the future, Hahn said the MOA will keep advocating for public health and added the MOA is a “strong supporter” of the Missouri Children’s Vision.
During 2007, Senate Bill 16 passed and was to be reauthorized during 2012. One part of the bill stated “every child enrolling in kindergarten or first grade shall receive one comprehensive vision examination performed by a state licensed optometrist or physician.”
The reauthorization of the bill, however, became “highly contentious,” Hahn said. With the best interest of Missouri children, Hahn said he hopes to readdress the bill’s benefits.
“[O]ne thing we’ve come to understand is that you have to be able to see to learn, and we don’t want Missouri’s children placed behind the eight ball,” Hahn said.
Brittany Ruess was a reporter for The Missouri Times and the SEMO Times, and a graduate of Webster University.