American Association of Doctors of Optometry
Union of American
A National Union of Eye Care Providers
Working Together to Improve Eye Care in America
The AADO and its Union of American Eye Care Providers are Committed
to Defending Vision Care Plan Providers and Related Entities
From Unfair and Illegal Business Practices by Vision Care Plans
Can Optometrists Form a Union?
Click HERE to Learn More.
Recent Positive Events and News
- Several states, including Virginia, are or have introduced legislation that would end several unfair business practices by vision care plans, including mandatory discounts on non-convered items and/or restrictions on what labs can be used. The Union's attorney, David Balto, is preparing to offer testimony before state legislators in support of these laws by explaining how they are pro-consumer and pro-competition.
- Wilson v. Spectera. In a lawsuit brought by Georgia optometrist Steven Wilson, O.D., the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the trial court's ruling that Georgia's "Patient Access to Eye Care Act" invalidated the Spectera rule that required Spectera's eye care providers to obtain materials from Spectera. (Read Supreme Court decsion here.)
- Acuity Labs v. Davis Vision, A private independent lab in Illinois has filed a Federal Anti-trust lawsuit against Davis Vision claiming that it's requirement that all lab work be performed at Davis' own lab violates federal anti-trust laws. About 150 optometrist from the Illinois Optometric Association and the Union of American Eye Care Providers have come out in support of this lawsuit, as has the AOA. (Read the Complaint filed in this case here.)
- Union of American Eye Care Providers Meets with DOJ, the Union recently held a meeting with senior officials of the anti-trust division of the Department of Justice to discuss the anti-competitive effects and harm to consumers resulting from the vertical integration occuring in major vision care plans whereby the plans own the frames lines, lenses, and the labs in addition to being the vision care plan. (Read the Press Release here.)
- States Pass Access Laws. Several states, including Kansas (Vision Care Services Act) and Vermont, have passed or introduced legislation that make some of the unfair VCP business practices illegal. An action virtually identical to the Georga Patient Access to Eye Care Act has been intruced in Illinois. Both the Kansas and Vermont bills prohibit rules requiring optometrists to offer discounts to patients on non-covered services and materials. (Read a Summary of the Kansas law here.)
- VSP Ends Illegal Practice. Following an adverse ruling, VSP appears to have ended its practice of charging providers $2,000 to appeal an adverse audit finding. They continue to charge for the audit, which appears to be a violation of the terms of the VSP Network Doctor Agreement. They also appear to be re-instituting a form of "most favored nations" clause, which the United States previously asserted was illegal in an anti-trust lawsuit filed against VSP in 1994 (Read U.S. v. VSP Complaint, Impact Statement, and Final Judgment here), by disallowing contact lens material and fitting fees billed to VSP if those fees exceed fees charged to some non-VSP patients.
Recent Concerns and Issues
- VSP has announced that commercial retailer/franchise Pearle Vision Centers is now an in-network participating provider for VSP, in direct conflict with its provider contract which says network providers cannot be "affiliated" with commercial retail or franchise locations because support for independent providers is the "cornerstone" of VSP's philosophy. Notably, Pearle is owned by Luxottica, which also owns VSP's primary competitor, EyeMed. So, we see the company that owns EyeMed now contracting directly with EyeMed's primary competitor, VSP.
- Superior Vision, which merged with Block Vision and now provides benefits to about 8.5 million people, announced that it was going to begin a program where all contact lenses would be supplied by them and the independent providers would no longer be able to sell contact lens materials. This rule would not have applied to corporate and commercial owned providers, it only applied to independent practices and providers. As compensation for losing all revenue from contact lens sales, Superior would increase the contact lens fitting fee by $5. Though Superior has now put this program on hold, AADO views this plan, which would transfer your CL sales revenue to the VCP, as a window into what the VCP's may be planning, and has being profoundly detrimental to both independent Eye Care Providers and consumers of contact lenses because it limits consumer choice and eliminates competition.
- EyeMed: In Texas and a few other states it is illegal for a plan to require discounts on non-covered services/materials. EyeMed is asking providers to give the discount anyway, and is notifying beneficiaries which providers having not agreed to provide discounts and which ones have.
- VSP: VSP has notified providers that they will be offering a better (more money) frame benefit for their company-owned Marchon and Altair frames, and will be advising beneficiaries that they will obtain better benefits by going to a provider that carries those two VSP-owned frame lines.
- Vision Care Plans are increasingly requiring that all eyeglasses be manufactured at their designated labs, prohibiting providers from using in-house labs or labs with favorable rates or services. This anti-competitive behavior inevitably results in higher costs to consumers, and lower quality of care that providers can offer their patients, in that patients must wait days, sometimes weeks, to receive glasses.
- Blue View (Anthem): At least one OD is reporting that a patient advised him that, when calling to confirm benefits, she was told that she should purchase her contact lenses from 1-800 Contacts (owned by Blue View parent WellPoint) because, "the doctors are usually more expensive."
- VSP: VSP announced that it has opened a VSP operated office on the campus of Apple to serve the eye care needs of Apple's 44,000 employees. VSP claims it will have minimal impact on surrounding doctors because only 6% of Apple employees are currently obtaining care from the VSP operated office.
- EyeMed: EyeMed is now using your billing data to send YOUR patients a notice encouraging them to use their EyeMed benefits, reminding them it is time for an exam, BUT, listing up to 10 offices that accept EyeMed that are located close to the patient's home, including LensCrafters and other EyeMed owned locations. EyeMed says they will include your office. The impact, however, is to inform YOUR patients that they can user their benefits at commercial EyeMed associated locations like LensCrafters.
- EyeMed: Under the new contract, Multi-focal lenses cannot be fabricated in-house unless you have your own surfacing system (effectively permitting LensCrafters to fabricate in-house, while most others must send the frame out to an EyeMed approved lab)
- EyeMed: Under new contract, doctors cannot bill medical insurance without first obtaining the patient's approval, even if the visit is for a purely medical problem, and any patient for whom you can get a "good" refraction must be billed to EyeMed, whether or not medical conditions are present and whether or not the reason for the visit was medical in nature.
- EyeMed: In at least some situations, providers cannot bill Aetna for annual or "routine" eye exams if the patient has EyeMed coverage, even if Aetna provides coverage for these services.
- VSP: Has begun identifying high volume sellers of Marchon and Altair frames as "Premium" VSP providers and featuring them in on-line doctor searches and on the VSP website, giving those that sell a lot of VSP's own frames an advantage in obtaining new VSP patients. Those that carry and sell a lot of VSP product are displayed first in online searches, and those that do not are listed last.
- VSP: In addition to their expanding network of VSP supported out-of-network commercial retail locations, VSP now has its "own" offices on the campus of certain large employers, putting them in direct competition with nearby VSP providers that often depend upon those large employers for a significant part of their business.