The American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology jointly sent a letter to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) voicing concerns about a draft amendment to health reform legislation that would “advance ‘stand-alone’ vision plans as a preferred and specially recognized mechanism for delivering eye health care for our patients, America’s children.” The draft amendment from Sen. Stabenow would allow stand-alone dental and vision plans to offer pediatric services within the “insurance exchanges” of the proposed health care reform plan.

The AOA/AAO letter says, “In contrast to increasing the essential integration of vision and eye health services into covered services, stand-alone vision plan companies aim to turn back the clock by continuing to segment vision from eye health, and seek to impose misguided limits on the care that our patients—especially children—receive. Such plans are routinely mislabeled as complete or comprehensive when in fact they are not.”

But, stand-alone vision and dental insurers disagree. “Eliminating private family vision and dental plans will increase costs and reduce choices for American families,” wrote Rob Lynch, CEO of VSP Vision Care, and Evelyn F. Ireland, executive director of the National Association of Dental Plans, in a September 12 article on Without Sen. Stabenow’s amendment, comprehensive health insurers “will be required to offer children’s oral and vision health services as part of the essential benefits package,” Mr. Lynch and Ms. Ireland wrote. “Therefore, the 132 million Americans enrolled in family stand-alone dental and vision benefits will be forced to drop their current private coverage and be required to purchase their children’s dental or vision coverage through a medical insurer.” They add, “Parents that choose to maintain their dental and vision coverage will face the complications and added costs of having different family members enrolled in different benefit plans. More confusion does not translate into better care or better health for Americans.”

AOA President Randy Brooks, O.D., countered this in a September 24 release: “We must increase the integration of comprehensive vision and eye health services into covered medical services. Vision benefits separately offered and priced from other required health benefits disassociates care from the medical model and adds unnecessary barriers to care coordination.”