Lobbyist outlines glaucoma-related initiatives

Ophthalmologists may not obtain the major changes related to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) that they seek this year, but some relief, even if temporary, will occur due to the fact that it?s an election year, said Cathy G. Cohen, MD, vice president, governmental affairs division, American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). She spoke during a mini-symposium on glaucoma public policy at the annual meeting of the American Glaucoma Society (AGS), providing the perspective of the lobbyist.

Ophthalmologists may not obtain the major changes related to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) that they seek this year, but some relief, even if temporary, will occur due to the fact that it's an election year, said Cathy G. Cohen, MD, vice president, governmental affairs division, American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). She spoke during a mini-symposium on glaucoma public policy at the annual meeting of the American Glaucoma Society (AGS), providing the perspective of the lobbyist.

"A lot of our time in Washington these days relates to the SGR," Dr. Cohen said, adding that Republicans and Democrats appear no closer to agreeing on how to fund a more permanent solution to the problem than they have been.

She praised AGS members for holding their meeting in the nation's capital and for meeting with members of Congress on March 6. Dr. Cohen encouraged glaucoma specialists to continue their advocacy efforts in part by participating in the AAO's Congressional Advocacy Day, which is set for April 9 and 10 and is co-sponsored by the AGS. Increasing funding to the National Eye Institute is a major goal, she said.

The AAO's glaucoma-related advocacy efforts at the national level include trying to convince the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to recommend glaucoma screenings, Dr. Cohen said. In 2005, the task force said that evidence was insufficient to recommend the screenings. The task force is set to review its recommendation in 2010, but the AAO is trying to convince members to review it earlier. Having the support of the task force could boost the case for National Committee for Quality Assurance Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures related to glaucoma, the use of which currently is being fought by some health plans. Health plans use HEDIS to measure performance on various dimensions of care and service.

The AAO also is working with Congress to communicate the urgency of the issue, Dr. Cohen said.

At the state level, she said, the AAO continues to undertake advocacy efforts to strengthen or maintain the role of the ophthalmologist where the optometry profession has sought a responsibility in prescribing medication or offering surgery-related care.