Consistent and focused advocacy is critical to the long-term viability of ophthalmology and the delivery of quality medical eye care in Wisconsin. And the WAO is an active force in Madison working on issues of importance to WAO members that impact the practice ophthalmology. Our comprehensive advocacy program aims to:
1. Strengthen the image of the practice of ophthalmology and educate policymakers on the importance of medical eye care; and
2. Provide public policy leadership to enhance the practice of ophthalmology and ensure high standards for medical eye care are maintained in Wisconsin.
Of course, our most effective advocacy efforts actively engage WAO members in their strategy and execution – aiming to capitalize on the expertise of our physician members.
Member participation in WAO’s advocacy programs is increasingly important, as we are likely to face two highly concerning legislative battles in the 2023-24 legislative session. Nursing special interests will almost certainly reintroduce their “APRN bill” – a proposal to create a new advanced practice nurse practitioner (APRN) license and authorize APRNs to prescribe medication and generally practice an expanded scope of care without direct physician supervision. A similar proposal introduced last session ignored the need for critical title protection for physicians.
In addition, we anticipate Wisconsin optometrists will pursue legislation to expand their permissible scope of services, as they have in several other states. In fact, there are now ten states – with Virginia and Colorado being the latest—that have expanded their optometric scope of practice laws to specifically include certain office-based laser procedures for glaucoma and post-cataract care. Again, it would not be surprising if an optometrist scope of practice battle hits the Badger State as early as the 2023-24 legislative session.
Thankfully, WAO is well-positioned act on these issues. In addition to our direct lobbying efforts thorough our professional lobbying form (HZW), we have several advocacy programs in place – that draw on the collective grassroots voice of WAO members – to influence public policy at every level of government. If are not already involved, WAO encourages you to participate in the following three programs to strengthen our influence in the Wisconsin Legislature and ultimately help us meet our legislative/regulatory goals:
· Sign-up for WAO’s Legislative Key Contact Program
WAO’s Legislative Key Contact Program can be a highly effective grassroots advocacy tool to help build and nurture strong on-going relationships between WAO members and lawmakers in Wisconsin. Ultimately, the program can help us help shape new policies important to our members.
The program is live on the WAO website and members can easily and quickly sign-up as a Key Contact. With the campaign season winding down, and the 2023-24 legislative session right around the corner, it’s more important than ever for WAO to have a robust Key Contact Program. It is essential to raising our profile in the State Capitol and beyond.
As a Key Contact, you can help influence the legislative process by cultivating relationships with elected officials. By taking advantage of existing relationships and making new contact with members of the Wisconsin Legislature (as well as the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation), you can help us educate lawmakers on the practice of ophthalmology and ultimately influence legislation.
But the program will not succeed without strong member participation, so please take a few moments to read more about it – and learn how simple it is to “enlist” and participate as a Key Contact. The time commitment is minimal and your responsibility as a key contact depends on your level of comfort and willingness to engage.
Remember, lawmakers are often eager to hear input from their constituents, and as an expert in the home health care field, you can make a real difference in the policy process as a Key Contact. CLICK HERE to sign-up by filling out and submitting a brief online survey.
· Participate in the WAO Capitol Connection Program
In WAO’s ongoing effort to raise the profile of ophthalmology and our organization in the State Capitol, we have established our Capitol Connection program to encourage WAO members to invite their local legislators to visit their clinics and facilities.
The program is designed to help WAO members build and strengthen working relationships with legislators and offers a unique face-to-face opportunity to educate them about the importance of ophthalmology and medical eye care. Through the Capitol Connection program, lawmakers can learn firsthand what is important to the ophthalmology community. In many cases, just a single meeting or contact can have a significant impact on a legislator's view or position on a legislative issue.
With potential scope of practice legislative battles on the horizon, it’s more important than ever for WAO members to connect with their state lawmakers to discuss the critical role of ophthalmology, as well as the level of education, training, and knowledge required of ophthalmologists.
To date, we have held multiple successful legislative tours and have several more being planned for the near future. Hosting a legislator at your site is easy, enjoyable, and can make a significant advocacy impact, so we would encourage all WAO members to participate in this highly effective advocacy program.
If you would like to host a legislative tour at your site, please contact the WAO office at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will work with you and your legislators to coordinate the meetings and will provide participating members with full support, including legislator bios, advocacy tips, issue briefings, and supporting documents.
· Contribute to the WAO Political Action Committee
The Wisconsin Academy of Ophthalmology is committed to offering a wide collection of member services and programing. That includes a comprehensive government affairs program that provides direct lobbying services and grassroots advocacy strategies to increase WAO’s presence in the State Capitol and help shape policy decisions that preserve and enhance the practice of ophthalmology in Wisconsin.
One of the most effective advocacy tools the WAO has as its disposal is the Ophthalmologists for Better Government Political Action Committee (PAC). The PAC allows WAO to collect contributions from members into a single account to support candidates for state legislative office who understand and support issues important to ophthalmologists, the practice of ophthalmology, and Wisconsin’s House of Medicine.
Contributing to our PAC is more important than ever, as optometrists have been successful in expanding their permissible scope of services in several other states – and the debate is heating up in other parts of the country. Wisconsin could very likely be next… and an optometrist scope of practice battle may hit the Badger State as early as the 2023-24 legislative session.
The best way we can win these legislative battles is to significantly enhance our legislative advocacy outreach, and having a robust, well-funded PAC is critical to our efforts. With strong member participation in the Ophthalmologists for Better Government PAC, we will be well positioned to preserve the Ophthalmology scope of practice in Wisconsin.
As mentioned above, the WAO PAC is funded through contributions from ophthalmologists across the state and is only effective as a political tool if members participate in the program. With that in mind, please take a few moments and contribute online TODAY to the Ophthalmologists for Better Government PAC. Every dollar helps, as the risk of non-involvement in the political process is getting too high to ignore.