OAO has Cleared a Major Hurdle
The Opticians Association of Ohio (OAO) is pleased to announce that through the efforts of many people and organizations, we have cleared a major hurdle on our way to retaining licensure for opticians in Ohio. It still has a few more steps to go and be signed by the governor, but I am comfortable that Ohio has dodged elimination of our license.
As president of the OAO, I would like to thank the following people and organizations who contributed in many ways to secure our position as a licensed profession:
- Lisa Rankin, Lobbyist for OAO. Without her, we would not have been able to get this effort off the ground. Lisa arranged and attended meetings with legislators, guided us through the maze of hearings, and kept us focused on our goal of license retention.
- Shirley Earley, Executive Director of the OAO. Shirley’s ongoing efforts in this battle and those before it are the reason we even had a license to fight for. There is no award great enough that can be given to her.
- Adela Lopez-Wellman, Executive Director, Ohio Vision Professionals Board. Adela was extremely instrumental in keeping in contact with legislators and government agencies to help get HB 509 passed with needed amendments attached.
- Ohio Senator Jerry Cirino, Vice Chair
- Ohio Senator Terry Johnson, Chair
- Senator Dale Martin, Ranking Member
- Ohio Senator Reineke
- Ohio Senator Rulli
- Ohio Senator Antonio
- Ohio Senator McColley
- Ohio Senator Sandra Obrien
- James (Jim) Morris, Executive Director of the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). Jim dropped everything, with a few day's notice to fly to Ohio to testify on behalf of opticianry .
- Dr. Arlan Aceton, President National Federation of Optical Schools (NFOS) Aarlan also dropped everything, changed his class schedule, and flew in to help us. Both he and Jim Morris gave riveting testimony that helped to make the difference.
- Keith Kerns, Executive Director of the Ohio Optometric Association (OOA). Keith and the OOA used more than half their testimony time allowance to support Ohio opticians. Ohio opticians have a great ally in the OOA, and we are grateful for their support.
- Curt Duff and the entire Board of Directors of the ABO for financing travel expenses for Dr. Aceto.
- Thomas Barracoto, President of the Ohio Vision Professionals Board.
- Johnna Dukes, President of the Opticians Association of America. Johnna OAA was in daily contact, offering help.
- Chris Allen, Executive Director of the OAA
- The Legislative Committee of the OAA
- State Associations across the country, especially GA, FL, NY, TN, SC, NC, KY, MI, IA, and many other states and state associations that supported Ohio with calls, emails, and letters. The legislators mentioned our national support more than once in meetings.
- The Ohio Eye Coalition
- Prevent Blindness Ohio
- Ohio Medicaid
- Ohio Department on Aging
- Morgan Hartzell, Classis Optcial
- Colleen Galanti, Opticians on Facebook (OOF)
- Optician Owners on Facebook
- Carrie Wilson, ABOM
- Opticians across the country who supported Ohio with calls, letters, and emails.
This is only a partial list of the many people and organizations which helped to secure the future of otpicianry in Ohio and across the country. This was only one of many battles opticianry has faced and there will be many more in the future. Thank you for all of your support, and know that Ohio will be there to help you when the time comes.
With Heartfelt Thanks,President John Bruening
Ohio Licensure of our Profession is in Jeopardy
Unfortunately, opticians in Ohio have been dealt another "Thanksgiving Surprise” with serious consequences for opticians and the public. Licensure of our profession is in jeopardy. The Senate Workforce & Higher Education Committee released a report this week recommending elimination of optician licensure. The recommendation is currently being drafted as part of a substitute bill in the Senate for insertion into HB 509 pending in that Committee. We expect HB 509 to pass the Senate before December recess.
The Senate Workforce & Higher Education Report recommends elimination of the Certificate of Licensure for Spectacle Dispensing Opticians, Contact Lens Dispensing Opticians, Spectacle-Contact Lens Dispensing Opticians and Ocularists. The rationale provided is that surrounding states with one exception do not require licensure; therefore, the licensure certificate "must be eliminated in order for Ohio to remain competitive in the workforce."
We strongly urge you to contact the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee as well as your own state Senator. Tell your personal story about the importance of maintaining licensure for the protection of the public and access to prescription eyewear. We have also provided below additional key talking points you may want
to choose from:
- Licensed opticians are recognized by Medicaid to fill the eyewear prescriptions for Ohio’s Medicaid population. Given the low Medicaid reimbursement rate for eyewear, many optometrists conduct the eye exam and provide a prescription but they do not provide the eyewear. By eliminating licensure for opticians, a
great void will be created for Ohio’s Medicaid recipients on where to go and who can fill their eyewear prescription.
- Many vendors for corrective lenses require a licensed individual to place a prescriptive order. By eliminating licensure, opticians will no longer be able to order corrective lenses for Ohio consumers.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data in May 2021 showing that the mean wage for Ohio opticians exceeded that of every neighboring state. Licensure equates to more competitive wages. Why would Ohio want to create a business environment where it will be more difficult to recruit individuals into the profession when wages have been lowered and are no longer competitive and public safety standards reduced?
- Opticians have been part of the solution to remove barriers to licensure by creating a pathway to optician licensure through an apprentice program. The individual is paid during the apprenticeship and qualifies for licensure after completion of the apprenticeship and passage of a national exam.
- Licensure equates to accountability and responsibility to the public. Opticians should have the knowledge, skills and ability to properly address consumers’ vision needs. The public benefits from safety standards for the profession and removal of licensure will eliminate these safety standards with no accountability for unlicensed, unregulated individuals.
- During the final weeks of session, Senators are focusing on dozens of issues. It is OUR responsibility to point out the plan to introduce a substitute bill for HB 509 recommending elimination of optician licensure. There are also many other recommendations that will be incorporated into that bill so we need to be very specific about opticians.
Be polite in your correspondence but call, email, reach out on FaceBook and ask for a response. Use every method of communication possible. Stress the urgency of the matter. If we don’t contact Senators NOW, we risk our issue becoming overlooked in the last days of a hectic session. Please also let any patients, family, friends and neighbors know of the negative effect of this proposal and ask them to contact their state Senator too.
More specific information will be sent to Ohio opticians, via email, as to other steps we can take. This email will be out in a few days.
This is absolutely URGENT so please act NOW
Elimination of Opticianry License
Dear Ohio Opticians,
If you are a licensed optician, you understand and appreciate the study, training, and dedication that it took to become licensed. Being licensed helps to assure that the eye healthcare and safety of Ohio consumers is a priority.
Unfortunately, some organizations in our state do not see the protection of the consumers as importantly as we do.
As president of the Opticians Association of Ohio (OAO), I need to bring to your attention a very real threat to the licensure of spectacle, contact lens, and dual licensed opticians in Ohio.
On December 8th, the Buckeye Institute, an independent research and educational institution (a think-tank), will be proposing that all opticianry licenses in Ohio be eliminated. Not scaled back, not reconsidered, but ELIMINATED. We have been told the House State and Local Government Committee is supposed to accept the report "as is" on December 8th with the dropping of a bill by December 31, 2021.
Read the entire report if you have time, but if you don’t at least, scroll down to pages 22 and 23 to see what the future holds. The elimination of our license is a very real possibility, but if we take action, and do it swiftly, we may be able to change the course.
What can we do?
There is a link below with the names and contacts (click on their photos) of the representatives who will be considering this report. I am asking that you:
- Write them a respectful letter, telling them how you feel being licensed helps to protect the public.
- Do NOT write how important your license is to you, as that will not help the cause.
- If you have a photo (used w/permission) of patients you have helped, especially due to you being trained/licensed, include those. Photos of damaged eyes, smiling children, special eyewear fitting. will have the greatest impact. We are trying to make a personal connection with the representatives.
- Call the representatives' offices and let them know the higher quality of care you deliver by bring licensed
- If you work for an optometrist or ophthalmologist, ask them to write these representatives and state of the importance of having trained and licensed optics on their staff
- Ask some of your patients to reach out to these representatives as well - especially if they have a connection to any of them.
- Follow these representatives on their social media and “like” their pages and recent posts. Get noticed, but keep it professional.
Important Tip: In all conversations and correspondence, use the word “Healthcare” in the subject and when speaking. Eliminating a healthcare license does not make sense, and if we remind them that we are healthcare, we have a better chance of winning this battle. https://ohiohouse.gov/committees/state-and-local-government
What will NOT help, and it may actually hurt our cause, is a barrage of emails and correspondence to this committee that do not address the safety and protection of the patient and consumer.
The sole mission of the Opticians Association of Ohio is to advocate for the licensed opticians of Ohio. To do this we need funds and to be honest, our membership is down to a record low.
JOIN: If you are not a member of the OAO, I implore you to join now. This will be an expensive fight, our membership is at an all-time low. Our legislators look to see how many opticians support this association as a gauge to determine how vested we are in our profession. If you cannot join, consider making a donation to help this cause. If you are already a member and would like to contribute specifically to this fight, your donations will help immensely.
This is real, and financial resources have never been more needed than today:
If you read the report, you can see that this is not conjecture, rumblings from the Statehouse or idle talk. This is real, and they mean to take our licenses. Call your colleagues, friends, and anyone who can help, and let them know what is about to happen. Again, we need to keep this professional, yet, WE NEED TO BE HEARD!
Bob Alexander, OAO Vice President, Shirley Earley, OAO Executive Director, the entire Board of Directors and myself have been in meeting with the American Board of Opticianry (ABO/NCLE), the Opticians Association of America (OAA) and other state associations to gather information and assistance to aid us in this situation, and they all have pledged to help however they can. At this stage, the most positive outcome will be achieved from the immediate actions of Ohio licensed opticians like yourself.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please Put "Elimination of Opticianry License" in the subject line.
John M. Bruening
President, Opticians Association of Ohio