I am writing in opposition to State Question 793, an initiative on this November’s ballot that would give big retailers like Walmart the ability to open optometry clinics within their stores. I want to be clear: I am not anti-Walmart; I support the free market and I believe in competition. I am opposed to this measure because I believe it gives Walmart unchecked power to sidestep state regulations designed to promote quality medical care. Frankly, I might not be alive if State Question 793 had been in effect several years ago.
In May of 2012, I was shopping with my wife when I collapsed. Thinking it was a stroke, she rushed me to the hospital. I received a CAT Scan, which showed nothing irregular, and I was released. On the drive home, I felt better, but I noticed that something was off with my vision. My eyesight got worse later in the weekend, and I reached out to my optometrist, Dr. Jeff Edwards.
Dr. Edwards cleared his schedule to see me, and after a series of tests, discovered I had lost almost all of my peripheral vision. He arranged for me to see a physician immediately, who ordered an MRI and then sent me to a cardiologist. When I arrived, the cardiologist told me my heart was functioning at 10 percent, and that “if I had not come in for treatment immediately I would have died.” In fact, he said my outlook was very poor anyway; he told me I had only a few months to live.
I am happy and blessed to report that he was wrong. Since the initial diagnosis, I have been seeing one of the state’s top specialists, whose treatment has done wonders for my health. I now live a healthy and happy life.
Dr. Edwards was part of a team of medical professionals that saved my life. So, you might be asking, why would it matter if Dr. Edwards was working at a Walmart? What difference would it have made?
Here’s why it matters: State Question 793 gives Walmart the ability and, in fact, the incentive, to eliminate the kind of medicine that Dr. Edwards practices. Doctors who work at Walmart are probably good people and good doctors, but their job is to help Walmart sell glasses, period. They aren’t paid to do the kind of tests that I had, which can detect signs of heart failure. Their job is to write you a prescription for glasses, sell you some frames, and hope you buy some groceries while you’re there.
If Walmart had rewritten our Constitution before I collapsed, I honestly believe I might not be around to write this letter today. Please think about that, and all your friends and loved ones whose lives might be impacted by this ballot initiative, when you vote in November.
Pat Payne and his grandson Grayson