OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians (OAOP) today announced their support for Senate Bill 100, as amended by Rep. Carl Newton, which would allow easier access to frames and lenses while still preserving the state’s high standards for quality vision care and patient protections. The new language was introduced as a committee substitute late Tuesday (4/9).
SB 100 removes from statute a prohibition on the sale of eyewear in non-medical, retail settings. It would allow big retail stores to sell frames and lenses. The bill also uses language modeled from Texas law that would allow large retailers to lease office space to optometric physicians. However, any optometry clinic within such a leased space would be required to be owned and operated by an optometric physician licensed in Oklahoma. An optometry clinic within a space leased by a retailer would need to physically and legally separate from the retail space, with its own external entrance. The language maintains Oklahoma’s status as one of 16 so-called “two door” states, which include neighboring Texas and Kansas.
The bill also includes new patient protections and regulations governing the use of online eye-exams performed at automated kiosks.
OAOP Executive Director Joel Robison said that optometrists have been working with lawmakers on legislation to increase access to eyewear since State Question 793 was defeated last November (State Question 793 proposed amending the State Constitution to make Oklahoma a “one door” state and to give corporate retailers unprecedented control over the delivery of eyecare). Oklahoma’s optometrists opposed the bill because of its impact on quality care, not because of concerns about where glasses or contacts are sold, Robison said.
“State Question 793 was defeated because voters agreed with their optometrists that vision care needs to be regulated by doctors, not large retailers,” said Robison. “We won’t ever compromise on high standards of care, patient protections or quality medicine.”
“At the same time, we also recognize that the law can be updated to improve patient convenience,” Robison continued. “Allowing large retailers to sell frames and lenses achieves that goal without compromising the integrity of the medical profession.”
Rep. Newton, who is also a practicing Doctor of Optometry, says the bill offers a chance to resolve an issue and move the state forward.
“It is hard to attract and retain quality vision care professionals in a regulatory and political environment that is defined by uncertainty,” said Newton. “This bill puts that issue to rest. Consumers will have more options regarding where they buy glasses and contacts. At the same time, eye doctors can rest easy knowing that they aren’t one step away from being controlled or regulated by a retail store. This is a win-win proposition for Oklahoma.”