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Inside this issue
  Texting with patients  
  Are your patients texting you? Texting patient information is permissible if accomplished through a secure platform. Any disclosure of patient information must meet HIPAA standards. Several free HIPAA compliant apps are available online.  

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  Six easy ways to develop relationships with elected officials  
  1. Sign up to follow their social media accounts. Don't know who your lawmaker is? Click here.

2. Attend district "town halls" or open houses. Most lawmakers hold several local events each year to get input about issues important to their constituents. Check their Facebook page or webpage for any upcoming events.

3. Attend community events - Your lawmaker will often announce the events they will attend on their webpage, Facebook, Twitter and other social media postings. The more they see you the more they will remember you.

4. Send congratulatory notes - If you see a positive newspaper article, send your lawmaker a note congratulating them.

5. Attend a fundraiser - Many local events are less than $100. If you want to attend a fundraiser for a lawmaker but can't afford it, COA may be able to help pay for you to attend. Contact Julie Andrade at jandrade@coavision.org.

6. Volunteer as an expert. A number of lawmakers look to constituents with health care backgrounds to advise them on those issues. Consider making yourself available as a health care resource to your state assembly member and senator.
 

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  State Board of Optometry  
  The State Board of Optometry (SBO) held a meeting on Friday, January 26. COA staff attended to monitor the meeting and provide testimony.

SBO discussed the design of an inspection program for optometric practices and dispensing optician premises. While the vast majority of all other health care profession regulatory boards have long-standing inspection programs, SBO is in its initial stages of creating such a program. COA testified at the meeting to urge SBO to implement a complaint-based program instead of a routine, proactive program. Complaint-based inspection programs only send inspectors to practices after receiving consumer complaints. Routine programs send inspectors to practices proactively, even in the absence of complaints. SBO members stressed at the meeting that inspection program education for doctors of optometry and opticians will play a critical role, meaning licensees would be made aware in advance what the inspectors will be evaluating. No decisions were made at the meeting on the inspection program but SBO members said they were committed to working with COA and other stakeholders throughout the design and implementation processes.

Legislative proposals of the SBO were also discussed at the meeting. SBO is dedicated to continuing its legislative efforts on children's vision. Assembly Member Autumn Burke has agreed to author another SBO-sponsored bill to encourage more parents to take their school-aged children to receive comprehensive eye exams.

SBO also discussed a number of legislative proposals, including minor technical changes needed to clean up laws. However, SBO voted in 2017 to eliminate the branch office law, which was included in the legislative proposals presented at the meeting. This issue will be further discussed at this year's COA House of Delegates meeting in February.

COA will continue to monitor all future SBO meetings and will remain actively engaged in the deliberative process on all SBO-related bills and regulations.
 

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  New cards and numbers for medicare patients  
  Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) will be mailing out new Medicare cards with new unique identification numbers, known as a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI), to all beneficiaries beginning April 2018. In accordance with the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015, CMS must remove Social Security Numbers (SSN) from all Medicare cards by April 2019. It is hoped that by removing the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) and replacing it with the more secure MBI, CMS will be able to prevent further identity theft and better protect financial and patient information.

Used in the place of HICN, the MBI will still be 11 characters in length, but will be alpha-numeric. During the transition period, April 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019, CMS will accept both the HICN and MBI for claims. However, starting January 1, 2020, all claims must be submitted using the new MBI. According to CMS, you will be able to look up your Medicare patient's new number through Noridian's secure web portal starting June 2018. Moreover, they recommend making sure any system or vendor you use is ready to accept the new MBI.

For more detailed information please visit: https://www.cms.gov/newcard.
 

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  Become a subject matter expert  
  Would you like to earn 16 free CE hours, get paid $200 and give back to your profession? Become a State Board of Optometry (SBO) Subject Matter Expert! Join SBO in Sacramento for the Board's Occupational Analysis on March 26 and 27 to provide professional insight into the current state of optometry. All travel, hotel, and food expenses are reimbursed at the state rate!

For additional information please contact Todd Kerrin at Todd.Kerrin@dca.ca.gov or (916) 575-7182.
 

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