A Bill to Include Optometry in Student Loan Repayment!

U.S. Senate Leader Introduces AOA-Backed NHSC Optometric Inclusion Bill

With backing from the AOA and the Arkansas Optometric Association, United States Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) yesterday introduced into the U.S. Senate the National Health Service Corps Improvement Act – an effort aimed at providing desperately-needed access to primary eye and vision care services in underserved communities throughout Arkansas and across the nation.

“Eye doctors often graduate with a mountain of student loan debt, forcing them to work in private practice or urban communities,” Pryor said. “This legislation opens the opportunity for an optometrist to fill a real need. With on-site vision services at community health centers, children in Arkansas are more likely to receive proper eye care, be able to see the blackboard in the classroom and do better in school as a result.”

An effort supported by U.S. Senator John Boozman, O.D. (R-Ark.), Community Health Centers of Arkansas, Inc., and others, the bill would make doctors of optometry eligible, once again, for the NHSC student loan repayment and scholarship program. While new to the Senate, the Pryor bill mirrors companion legislation (HR 1195) now widely supported among members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“With the recognition that primary eye care is a critical component in the health care delivery system, but not often found in underserved communities, Senator Pryor’s legislation will expand the list of eligible health care providers who may apply for NHSC Loan Repayment and Scholarships,” said Sip Mouden, CEO of Community Health Centers of Arkansas, Inc. “Once enacted, optometrists will be eligible to apply for NHSC loan repayment, and in return, will pay back those loans by providing primary eye care in underserved and rural communities.”

In the opening days of April, a record-number of AOA doctors and students are expected to descend on the nation’s capital for the 2012 Congressional Advocacy Conference. Bringing AOA’s pro-access, pro-patient message to nearly every House and Senate office on Capitol Hill, ODs and students will be urging elected leaders to back the Pryor bill, HR 1195, as well as Medicaid OD physician recognition legislation (HR 1219), and a number of other AOA priorities.

To read Sen. Pryor’s full announcement on the introduction of the National Health Service Corps Improvement Act, please follow: http://www.pryor.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2012/3/pryor-seeks-to-improve-access-to-eye-care-for-rural-families

To learn more about the 2012 AOA Congressional Advocacy Conference, please visit: http://www.aoa.org/x20634.xml

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