Don’t deny access to eye care


The author is president of the North Carolina Optometric Society:

The opponents of expanded access to eye care are getting desperate. The special interests who want to limit access to care see that House Bill 36, the Enhanced Access to Eye Care Act, puts the power in the hands of patients.

The special interests who control access are resorting to the common tricks of “some people said,” “we have seen,” and “unnamed people are regretting.”

In his Viewpoint column from April 17, Dr. Woodford Van Meter certainly went for all these old tricks.

Let’s get through the smokescreen and look at the facts.

The April 17 column mentions unnamed legislators as “regretting” the decision to expand access to care in Kentucky. The clear public record for the past six years shows otherwise.

Since Kentucky expanded patient choice and access six years ago, the Kentucky Board of Optometry has certified more than 330 Doctors of Optometry to perform laser procedures. That number represents a tremendous expansion of access, and choice, for patients. Patients have responded to that increased access. Doctors of Optometry have performed 8,000 procedures in the state.

There have been zero complaints to either the Board of Optometry or the medical board concerning optometrists performing laser procedures.

Thanks to this great response from Kentucky residents, no legislator has even filed a bill in the past six years to reverse course on this success story.

Including the other states that have expanded patient choice and access, Doctors of Optometry have performed more than 33,000 laser procedures. The only two patient complaints in that time are for procedures not authorized by House Bill 36.

This tremendous safety record is also demonstrated by the fact that malpractice insurance premiums for Doctors of Optometry have remained level in these states.

It’s not just conjecture that giving patients a choice of providers is safe. It’s settled fact.

There is no wrong answer for patients when choosing an eye care provider for the limited range of laser procedures authorized by House Bill 36. When given the choice, particularly in rural areas, many patients find that a Doctor of Optometry can save them time and travel. In other cases, patients stay with an ophthalmologist. The record shows that both choices are sound for patients.

The opponents of House Bill 36 want limited access to eye care for patients. Instead, it’s time for us to follow the successful lead of other states and expand access to care. With a growing population, North Carolina will benefit from more trained providers and more choice.