At press time, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that the American Optometric Society’s (AOS) claim of the American Board of Optometry’s (ABO) “board certification” credential being false and misleading will indeed have to go to trial—slated to begin on July 10th.
As many of you are aware, the AOS was created in response to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) resolution in forming the ABO to create a program to board certify general optometrists. The AOS has not been shy in stating their less-than-stellar opinions on the methods employed by the AOA in passing the creation of ABO. Bottom line is the AOS feels the board certification proposal harms optometry. AOS provides many reasons for this, but it all starts with how the AOA/ABO defines their board certification. According to AOS, the definition falsely implies to the public that docs who are ABO board certified are more competent or better docs than optometrists who are “merely” licensed.
The Court did dismiss two of the three claims alleged by the AOS. It agreed with the ABO’s request for a judgment in its favor on both of the AOS’s state law claims for false/deceptive advertising and unfair competition. However, the Court denied ABO’s motion to the final claim, simply indicating the claim will need to be played out at trial.
In response, AOA President Dori Carlson, OD, released an urgent message on June 21, stating, “While most of the AOS lawsuit against the ABO has been defeated even before going to trial, the lone remaining claim will damage the profession and disrupt AOA advocacy. The AOS lawsuit is no longer about board certification, rather it is about AOS legal tactics threatening our core identity and our future standing in all aspects of health care…the line has been crossed by the AOS, either by design or failure to consider the dangerous consequences of placing our status as physicians in jeopardy.”
Dr. Carlson credits the 1986 federal law that recognized optometrists as physicians in Medicare for the foundation of the profession’s present standing as health care providers. It’s now her fear that a judge could destroy this federally recognized physician status, which could jeopardize the profession’s relationship with medicine and third-party payers in state, federal, and third-party advocacy arenas.
By the time this issue comes out, the trial will be underway. However, it’s never too late to voice your opinions. Regardless if you are pro AOS or ABO, there hasn’t been a more appropriate time to get involved in shaping the future of your profession.