Health Care Access: We Need to do Better

By Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson

A single woman raising her grandkids and working two hourly jobs to make ends meet. A retired veteran who relies on public transportation to get to medical appointments. A small business owner who works 12+ hour days to keep the business running. Three very different lives – yet they all share a need for access to health care, especially as we age. Unfortunately, finding time to see a health care provider can be a challenge in all of these scenarios – and even more so if these individuals live in urban areas like the City of Trenton.

Everyone deserves high-quality health care, and no one should have to go without because of where they live. As a member of the New Jersey General Assembly, I have experienced health inequities firsthand – and I expect better for the more than 80,000 people who live in Trenton, one of the areas I represent. That’s why I’m serving as the prime sponsor for important bipartisan legislation to improve health equity and access to vision and medical eye care this session.

Millions of Americans suffer from glaucoma and cataracts, and New Jersey residents who have these conditions will benefit from improved health care access afforded by this legislation. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute, there are more than 24 million Americans with cataracts, a number that is expected to double over the next 30 years. Glaucoma affects more than 3 million Americans over age 40 and is expected to increase to 4.2 million by 2030.

A-920, which has an identical bill in the Senate (S-354), is designed to allow optometrists to perform certain in-office, non-invasive, minor laser procedures to treat glaucoma and after-cataract surgery care. Earlier this month, I visited Salus University in Pennsylvania where I watched a demonstration of one of these procedures, learned more about the optometry curriculum and met the next generation of optometrists. Salus, like all U.S. optometry schools, teaches students to perform these procedures, which have been safely performed in other states since 1998 and are approved to be performed within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in states that allow full scope practice.

Under current New Jersey law, if a patient requires one of the procedures included in this legislation, their optometrist must refer them to an ophthalmologist for care. This typically includes three appointments – one for the initial consultation, one for the procedure, and one for follow-up care. For many of my constituents, taking time off work or finding transportation to these appointments can be impossible, especially if they have to travel outside the area. By not receiving treatment, they risk living with blurry vision and experiencing future complications, including blindness.

Optometrists practice in all communities throughout New Jersey, including in urban and underserved communities like Trenton. This legislation allows residents to receive care when and where they need it without having to wait or travel to additional appointments. This is especially important in Trenton, where nearly 28% of residents struggle with poverty-related issues, including health care access, transportation, housing, food insecurity, unemployment, educational disparities, substance use, and mental health issues, and where approximately one in three people are insured by Medicaid.

By passing A-920 / S-354, New Jersey can join other states in taking proactive measures to address health equity and access. Passage of this legislation will also help attract and retain highly skilled, qualified optometrists to live and work in our state.

It’s time to modernize New Jersey’s optometric scope of practice laws to increase access to quality vision and medical eye care and ensure health equity for all citizens.

Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D) represents the 15th Legislative District.

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2 responses to “Health Care Access: We Need to do Better”

  1. We always here about the need for healthcare, which should be properly referred to as “Health Insurance.” The discussion never ends.

    Obamacare, which is costing taxpayers billions every year, was the ultimate universal savior of our medical insurance issues, with “Affordable Healthcare Coverage” for all. What happened?

    That’s the way it was presented to the American people. It is clear that no one is ever accountable for the bad result of “good” intentions.

    Someone should ask Obama, Pelosi, Cory Booker, Bob Menendez, etc. But no one will.

    We’ll just legislate new mandates and continue to increase taxes to pay for such mandates.

  2. Terminate all funding to illegal aliens in New Jersey and give the money to modernize New Jersey’s optometric scope of practice laws to increase access to quality vision and medical eye care and ensure health EQUITY for all citizens. Illegal aliens are NOT LEGAL citizens or LEGAL residents of New Jersey. They are ILLEGAL parasites stealing between $4-$5 BILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR from taxpayers, so they cn have free healthcare, free education, free housing, free legal services, free foodstamps, free cash (at $6000/month; nice job if you can get it), etc.

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