Ongoing efforts by our Government Relations and Telehealth Committees and focused project work serve as the backbone that allows the Association to effectively pursue its mission. Each program area promotes the work and visibility of the NAOO and provides critical information and decision-making tools to its members, legislators and regulators. Both also provide opportunities to move on projects that enhance the reputation of the Association and optical retail sector as well as protect the strides made over the last few decades. The NAOO was incorporated in 1959. Its founders established an organizational structure dedicated to promoting regular, high quality and convenient eye care from all segments of the industry in an environment free from unnecessary regulation.
The Association tracks, reviews and provides updates on relevant legislative and regulatory issues in the fast-moving state and federal systems. These updates are made regularly depending on the current phase of the legislative sessions.
Information is also shared on an as-needed basis and during the twice yearly in-person meetings held in conjunction with Vision Expo East and Vision Expo West.
When a decision is taken by the members of the Association to work on a given issue, the NAOO files letters of support or opposition and is, therefore, a visible participant in the regulatory process for the retail optical sector.
In the last five years, NAOO has coordinated strong efforts relating to business relationships between optical firms and optometrists, optician rights to engage in practice and obtain licenses by credentials and supporting progressive approaches to the use of telemedicine with appropriate levels of regulation. Work in all those categories is ongoing.
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The Association has a history of undertaking projects for the benefit of the industry, consumers and/or members. Many are industry-wide and involve coordination across the industry.
Some examples of recent projects include:
- In 2015, and continuing through 2020 when the final Rule was released, the NAOO met with the FTC and submitted comments relating to the FTC review of the Eyeglasses and Contact Lens rules. We also participated as panel members at the Contact Lens workshop to encourage continuance of the Rule and flexibility in new regulations. The NAOO corresponds regularly with the FTC regarding ophthalmic industry issues involving both industry participants and consumers affected by the numerous regulations affecting the industry.
- The NAOO is working on a wide-ranging optician-focused project with the goal of expanding mobility for licensed and certified opticians and modernizing other aspects of the regulation of opticians. We also seek to expand training opportunities for prospective opticians and expand the available testing for those seeking certification or where testing is required to engage in practice.
- In 2013 - 2015 the Association undertook a program to develop voluntary standards and a registration system for online sellers of prescription eyewear. That system is now operated by LegitScript, an independent certifying organization.
- The NAOO was instrumental in organizing and coordinating efforts around what is now the “Think About Your Eyes” program that is successfully educating consumers about the need for regular eye care and increasing the number of eye examinations performed in the US each year.
- The Association arranged for and helped develop a HIPAA toolkit that assisted its member companies and their affiliated optometrists in coming into compliance with the HIPAA regulations in 2003 and with the HITECH amendments more recently.
The Association, from time-to-time, will review the state of regulation in the industry and decide on proactive projects to review, revise or eliminate unclear or unfair regulation.