THE HUMAN SIDEOF OPTOMETRY
The Political Practitioner
I realized my passion for politics through my desire to make a difference in the optometric profession.
KARENA. RICCIO, O.D. COLUMBUS, OHIO
Ten years prior to entering private optometric practice, I worked for a sub-specialty ophthalmology group. This group never had trouble getting on insurance panels. They just filled out the necessary paperwork, and they had patient access.
When I moved to a new city, I joined a private optometric practice. I, too, filled out all the necessary paper work, but was denied access to many of the insurance panels. Instead of just getting angry about this, I decided to act.
We, as optometrists, aren’t entitled to practice fullscope optometry based on our education and our license. Instead, our state and federal legislators determine our scope-of-practice. In realizing this, I first took action by becoming involved in my state association, the Ohio Optometric Association (OOA) in 1996.
As a member of the OOA, I’ve served on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) committee, attempting to get DEA numbers for O.D.s; I served on the legislative committee; and I became chair of the Key O.D. program in Ohio. As chair, I contacted other Ohio optometrists, discussed the legislative agenda and encouraged them to contact and educate their state legislator on optometry and health care for their constituents.
Soon, the AOA encouraged me to attend its Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., where I, along with other O.D.s from all over the country, make visits to the legislators on Capitol Hill.
As a result of this conference, we have successfully eliminated the sale of over-the-counter cosmetic contact lenses, halted Medicare-fee reductions, achieved some non-provider discrimination, as seen in the Medicare + Choice Legislation, among other goals.
My experience in optometric politics inspired me to get involved in American politics, as I became involved in Sherrod Brown’s campaign for the Ohio U.S. Senate. We were impressed with Sherrod’s ideals and commitment to help all Americans, and he’s been a good friend to the optometric profession by supporting provider non-discrimination in the Medicare + Choice plans. We hosted a fundraiser for him in October, attended by more than 100 people and raised more than $10,000 for his campaign. We also distributed yard signs and literature. I am happy to report that Sherrod Brown was elected.
Because optometry continues to be a legislated profession, it’s imperative that you get involved. When one person’s passion for change is fused with the passions of like-minded individuals, the possibilities are truly endless.
If you’re interested in getting involved in optometric politics, e-mail Dr. Riccio at karenriccio@sbc global.net.
DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH JENNIFER KIRBY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8139, OR -KIRBYJ@LWWVISIONCARE.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.
Optometric Management, Issue: May 2007