Legislative Updates

Due to the fast changing landscape of legislation occurring due to COVID-19, please visit the COA website or contact the COA office for the latest updates.

9/23/20 Update

  1. FTC CL paperwork mandate (S. 3559/H.R. 6365) - AOA and COA still fighting. Currently will go into effect on Oct. 16, 2020. Here is a link to the AOA compliance kit.
  2. Senate Bill 977 by Senator Monning - COA WIN! The bill would require the attorney general (AG) to review and approve the acquisition of health care providers or hospitals by a health care system, private equity group, or hedge fund. COA’s concern was technical in nature, but could have proved costly to optometrists who are planning to sell their practice. Thanks to COA’s efforts, optometrists who planned to fund their retirement from their practice sale will not be subject to a costly, bureaucratic process. 
  3. Student license waiver – COA has been seeking a temporary waiver for 2020 graduates to enable them to practice without having to travel across country during a pandemic to take the clinical skills part of the NBEO. 
  4. Independent contractingCOA WIN! After months of advocacy, AB 2257 (Gonzalez) was amended last week to make it easier for health care providers that form a separate business to independently contract under some circumstances. If this bill passes, COA will provide more detailed legal guidance to our membership on what they need to do to qualify as an independent contractor.
  5. Scope of practice - AB 1467 (Salas and Low) will not be heard this year. However, negotiations with ophthalmology continue. We are seeking language to expand the services optometrists provide and conditions that optometrists can treat, including COVID-19 testing by optometrists.
  6. Mobile clinicsCOA WIN! AB 896 (Low) would allow Vision to Learn and other nonprofits to operate a mobile optometry clinic. COA has amended the bill to make sure for-profit groups cannot operate mobile clinics in California and that COA’s volunteer work would not be impacted.
  7. New rules for offering credit to your patients take effect July 1 - Last year, COA fought to maintain the ability of health care providers to offer CareCredit or other loans with deferred interest to patients. The resulting compromise requires providers who offer this credit to follow new rules and make specified disclosures to your patients starting July 1, 2020. Click here for more information.
  8. PPE mandates – SB 275 (Pan & Leyva) would require an employer of a health care provider to build a stockpile of personal protective equipment for employees. COA recognizes the importance of having sufficient PPE during a public health emergency, however, we share the concerns of other health care providers that some of the proposed timeframes are impractical.
  9. Unhappy about the new VSP changes? Email AOATPC@aoa.org to voice concerns.

06/09/20 Virtual Legislative Day - first virtual Legislative Day happened June 1st. SJOS is scheduling constituent meetings with our legislators Flora, Eggman, Grey, Caballero, and Galgiani. Topics will be scope expansion, medi-cal optometry coverage, and independent contracting. 

06/09/20 CE Waiver - COA successfully advocated for a waiver of the CE requirement. If your license expires between March 31 and June 30, CE requirements are waived till Oct 1, unless further extended.

06/09/20 Interactive online CE to count as in-person - Interactive courses offered live over internet platforms will count towards the 30 hours required of live continuing education course credits.

06/09/20 Medicare telehealth expansion - The AOA successfully advocated to ensure optometrists are included in the temporarily telehealth expansion for Medicare beneficiaries. As a result of these actions, patients can be at home, doctors can waive coinsurance or deductible, non-public facing platforms like Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom are allowed, and phone appointments are reimbursable for new and existing patients.

06/09/20 Telehealth payment parity - COA advocated for early enactment of a law passed last year to mandate telehealth payment parity. The new law requires health plans to pay for telehealth services and plans must reimburse at the same rate as in-person services. Also, COA secured an interpretation on the record so that this new law can not be used to mandate payment for online vision testing.

06/09/20 We have AOA to thank for optometrists inclusion as physician status in CARES Act. PPP relief and US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grants thanks to AOA efforts.

06/09/20 Continued advocacy for telehealth services. AOA got us physician status in telehealth legislation. COA has made EyecareLive their recommendation for telehealth giving members 1 month free and a reduced monthly rate afterwards.

06/09/20 PPP Flexibility Act: HR 7010 extends covered period for loan forgiveness from 8-weeks to 24-week. Also change to 60/40 payroll/non-payroll split (from 75%). Extended repayment term of 5 years instead of 2 at 1% interest. 10 month deadline to submit forgiveness application. Deferral until lender receives forgiveness amount from SBA. Delay in payment of payroll taxes. 

06/09/20 VSP changes

    1. Free to use any lab now for VSP Choice and Advantage plans. 
    2. New guaranteed member pricing for VSP Choice plan lens enhancements starting 9/1/2020. 
    3. New preferred and non-preferred categories for lens designs and enhancements with lower doctor service fees for products deemed non-preferred.

For more information email info@sjos.org

5/4/2020 COA advocacy currently focusing on:

    1. Online CE: pushing for Gov. Newson to grant extensions to complete CE and allow all hours though online CE. Currently, any live online CE that isn’t a recording will qualify as CE.
    2. Pushing for inclusion for small business relief. AOA has already had success with including optometrists in CARES Act. Currently working on changing AB 5 regarding independent contractors and loosening language so associate doctors can be classified as independent contractors.
    3. Continued advocacy for telehealth services. COA has made EyecareLive their recommendation for telehealth giving members 1 month free and a reduced monthly rate afterwards.

!!03/30/2020 NEW INFORMATION ON THE CARES ACT!!

How Can the CARES Act Help Optometry Clinic & Optical Owners?

3/23/20 Inclusion of OD’s in the COVID-19 Relief Package

With leading U.S. senators now deciding which provisions will ultimately make it into the COVID-19 emergency relief package Congress is scheduled to vote on later today, the AOA is urging all doctors and students to call their senators this morning to demand that Congress provide immediate and desperately needed relief for struggling doctors of optometry and other frontline physicians across the nation.

To take action today, doctors and students should call the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to be connected with the offices of your U.S. senators, and urge that your senators:

1) co-sponsor S. 3559 and

2) tell Senate leadership that they support inclusion of S. 3559 within the COVID-19 relief package Congress is now considering.

Please include relevant information about the challenges your office is facing under these crisis conditions and about the increasingly vital health care role doctors of optometry play. Suggested telephone message for doctors and students to use to call their senator(s):

  • Thank you for taking my call. I appreciate your service to the public at this difficult time and all that you and the Senator are doing to support our state during this national emergency.
  • I am a Doctor of Optometry practicing in ___________________________. I deliver essential, primary eye health and vision care to working men and women, school-aged children and seniors, and my practice employs ____________.
  • Right now, our health care practices are getting hit doubly hard during this current crisis as they continue struggling to keep up with patient care needs and the demands of keeping our offices running and workers employed. More and more are closing by the day, likely for good.
  • Please let the Senator know that I called to ask for him/her to co-sponsor S. 3559 and support inclusion of S. 3559 in the COVID-19 relief package now being considered. This will help doctors of optometry like me and other physicians now struggling to stay on the health care frontlines caring for our neighbors and keeping them healthy and employed.
  • Thank you.

After taking action, doctors and students should contact AOA Advocacy staffer Matt Willette (MWillette@aoa.org) with any important outreach updates and/or needed follow-up with lawmaker offices.

You can also email ASAP using these links below.

  1. https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me
  2. https://www.harris.senate.gov/contact/email

03/23/20 - Routine eye exams should be stopped due to stay at home order from our governor.

03/23/20 URGENT NON-ROUTINE CARE

  • Red eyes
  • New flashes/floaters
  • New onset double vision
  • Foreign Body
  • Ongoing neuro rehab therapy
  • Ocular trauma/injury
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • pre-post Ops
  • TBI therapy

03/23/20- All membership dues waived until June 1st. Join now to take advantage of the free 1 hour legal advice and emergen-CE. Lots of resources for COA members on their website for practice owners and associate doctors.

 

Check out coavision.org for more information.

FDA orders “Visibly” (formerly Opternative) to shut down online vision screening! 9/18/19

Medi-cal adult eyeglasses reinstated - Medi-cal coverage for adult eyeglasses are back effective 1/1/2020. The restoration includes services previously offered in 2009 including eyeglasses, low vision devices, and medically necessary CL’s. 9/18/19

Dental and Optometric Care Access Act (DOC Access Act) - HR 3762 disallows detrimental policies by ELISA such as limits on a doctor’s choice of lab and mandates on noncovered service materials. 9/18/19

In-home Care - AB 458 (which is sponsored by the State Board of Optometry) will allow OD’s to provide optometric care at a home residence. A “home residence certificate” will be required. Bill will be heard in the Senate Business and Professions Committee. 9/18/19

CL Rx Verification Modernization Act - HR 3975 prohibits Rx verification made by robocall in favor of direct communication (phone, fax, patient portal, or email) so there is a paper trail to ensure patient’s get what was prescribed. Also requires online sellers to develop HIPAA-compliant methods for patients to electronically transmit Rx. 9/18/19

Medi-cal reimbursement rates - the new budget has $600-$700 million in Prop 56 funding dedicated to medi-cal provider payment increases. COA will aggressively push to increase reimbursement rates for us. 9/18/19

 

Medi-cal docs must maintain medical records for 10 years (instead of 7). 9/18/19

Independent Contractors - COA is seeking an amendment to AB 5 that would allow OD’s to be independent contractors. A new law (Dynamex decision) went into effect last year that changed how independent contractors were defined and conflicts with OD’s as independent contractors. COA fighting to be excluded along with medicine, dentistry, and psychology. 9/18/19

Scope of Practice - AB 1467 passed Assembly and will next be heard in the Senate Business and Professions Committee. Will allow us to perform minor surgical procedures under physician protocol. 9/18/19

Immunizations and optometry

In 2017, AB 443 gave OD’s the ability to administer flu, shingles, and pneumonia vaccines to patients over 18 after receiving training and certification. COA’s website has info if you want to be certified. 9/18/19

California law allows optometrists to become certified to perform three immunizations – flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccines – on adults. The training for immunization certification has three requirements: (1) completion of an immunization training program, (2) basic life support certification, and (3) one hour of ongoing CE every 2 years.

Many optometric colleges are currently working on creating a certification training course specifically for optometrists. In the meantime, immunization training courses developed by the pharmacy profession can be taken now. The pharmacy certification course is 20 hours total – 12 hours of self-study with a test and an 8-hour, live seminar component that involves attending the full live seminar, successfully completing the injection technique assessment, and completing the assessment.

For more information about immunizations generally, check out the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC). IAC works to increase immunization rates and prevent disease by creating and distributing educational materials for healthcare professionals and the public that enhance the delivery of safe and effective immunization services. Additionally, the CDC produces a number of resources such as posters and flyers that can be downloaded free of charge. 7/25/19

The Think About Your Eyes national campaign – Most COA members now are eligible for a free basic listing on the Think About Your Eyes doctor locator. COA is paying the cost of this new membership benefit – all you have to do is update your company record in COA’s database. 2.3 million site visits with 4 million eye exams are attributed to the campaign. 7/25/19

VSP bill signed into law – AB 1092 gives VSP authority to continue its existing practice auditing for suspected fraudulent claims. COA had experts review this bill to make sure we are protected. Amendments were made to ensure VSP used independent and verifiable statistical methodology to detect fraud and reduced the time window for fraudulent claims from 3 years to 1 year. 7/25/19

Branch Office law repealed – A new law sponsored by the State Board of Optometry and signed this year repeals the branch office law and instead allows optometrists to own up to 11 offices.  7/25/19

Illegal sales of contact lenses – COA is concerned that Hubble and other companies are allegedly violating state and federal law by selling contact lenses without a prescription. COA has filed a complaint with the State Board of Optometry and we urge you to do the same. Contact COA’s hotline at (916) 266-5027 for information on how to report a complaint. 7/25/19

Online eye testing – COA continues to seek patient examples that we can use in our fight to educate the public about the dangers of online or remote refraction. If you have a patient between 18 and 50 who came to you asymptomatic, but had a life- or sight-threatening condition that you were able to detect during your exam, please report the case to COA or call COA’s “hotline” at (916) 266-5027. We need your help to collect these patient examples to help COA demonstrate the risks to consumers, the media and elected officials. Your patient need not have received an online or remote refraction to submit your example. 7/25/19

Salary history – AB 168 prohibits an employer from inquiring into an applicant’s prior salary or failing to provide a pay scale upon demand. 7/25/19

Sexual harassment training – SB 1343 requires an employer with five or more employees to provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees and at least one hour of sexual harassment training to all nonsupervisory employees by January 1, 2020, and once every two years thereafter. 9/18/19

Private breast pumping room – AB 1976 requires employers to provide their workers with a private area that is not a bathroom to pump breast milk. 7/25/19

Office poster requirement for optometrists – California Code of Regulations (CCR) Section 1566 and 1566.1 requires a Consumer Notice be posted in each optometrist’s office in a conspicuous place for consumers to see. The notice must state that patients will be given a copy of their spectacle and contact prescription. The FTC has recently come into California to check offices for this notice. For a sample of the consumer notice requirements, please visit the COA website. 7/25/19