By Dave Anderson, OD, Trustee, Ohio Optometric Association
After the November election, I volunteered to become a Key OD for Representative Niraj Antani, Ohio House 42nd district. I first wondered how I would relate and what we would have in common, what issues we would discuss besides legislative agendas, or how we could support each other. My partner, Dr. Keith Basinger, is in the local Rotary club with Representative Antani.
Rep. Antani and I both grew up in a small town. His hometown is Miamisburg, where I live now and where my practice is located. We both went to Ohio State, and we both have a passion for helping the families in my community. When I first called and spoke with Rep Antani, we agreed to meet the day after the Sugar Bowl. I quickly found that we shared another passion: Buckeye football!
I approached the encounter with Rep. Antani much in the same way I do each new patient encounter – I wanted to find out what made him tick, his background, and how I might personally connect.
Over coffee we discussed his platform and agenda as well as mine as a constituent and Optometrist. I explained some of the barriers to patient access, including insurance challenges like prior authorization, panel access and sales tax on optical goods. He listened, took notes, asked questions and was able to relate to each of my issues. He was interested in the challenges we have with other providers who are his friends and supporters. He was surprised to hear that Ohio was one of only of eight states that charges sales tax on optical goods. At this news, he stopped his note taking, looked at me, and said, “Wow – one in eight?? Ohio should be a leader on something like this. Not only should we be in-line but we need to be forward thinking in ways to help with cost saving measures like this in healthcare.”
Since this meeting, we have discussed the sales tax issue and others, in person and via email. We have, of course, discussed the Buckeyes at length, and at each time I feel that we are much more alike than we are different. He believes in Ohio, he wants the best for Ohio and our community, and he uses a common sense approach to legislation. He has proven this by voting against an increase in pay for legislators. “Why should we get a raise when the pay scale for Ohio has been stagnant?” he said.
Rep. Antani is one of the youngest representatives in the nation at age 23. He is in Law School and increasing his debt load just as I did during Optometry school. He is totally focused on moving Ohio forward, in higher education including skilled trades like Optician and Ophthalmic Technician.
I urge all OOA members to reach out to your state representative or senator. They drink the same coffee, shop at the same grocery stores and cheer on the same football teams. They have a desire to help those in your community. Shortly after our first visit, Rep. Antani visited my office where I cleaned and adjusted his glasses at my suggestion. He got a glimpse of what occurs in my busy practice, and he left with the ability to see our community and his constituents better than when he arrived.