Oklahoma ODs Applaud Gov. Stitt and Legislature for State’s New Optometry Laws

By

Gov. Kevin Stitt.

OKLAHOMA CITY—Many Oklahoma optometrists this week thanked the state legislature and Gov. Kevin Stitt for passing and signing legislation that removes from statute a prohibition on the sale of eyewear in non-medical, retail settings, according to an announcement by the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians (OAOP). The new legislation also protects Oklahoma’s vision health standards while increasing convenience for consumers, the OAOP noted. Senate Bill 100, authored by Rep. Carl Newton, an optometrist, allows retail stores to sell frames and lenses, and also permits retail stores to lease space to optometrists. Unlike previous legislation proposed in Oklahoma (including the previously rejected State Question 793), SB 100 contains “vigorous protections for patient safety, quality of care, and the independence of the doctor,” according to OAOP.

Under SB 100, any optometry clinic leasing space from a retail store would need to be a separate legal entity owned and operated by an optometric physician licensed in Oklahoma. That optometrist cannot be an employee of the retail entity. Furthermore, the optometry clinic would be required to be physically 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 includes neighboring Texas and Kansas.

Also unlike State Question 793, SB 100 clarifies that the independently operating Board of Examiners in Optometry regulates optometrists’ scope-of- practice, and that a corporate entity cannot restrict or influence how a doctor practices, according to OAOP’s announcement.

“Our primary concern as eye doctors is protecting Oklahoma’s very high standards for quality of care and patient safety,” Dr. Selina McGee, an Edmond optometrist and president of OAOP, said in the announcement. She noted that the bill is a positive development for optometric physicians and their patients. “To preserve those high standards, optometrists need to be operating independently, free of corporate control or interference, and governed by a medical board. SB 100 is consistent with those principles, where State Question 793 and other previous proposals were not,” she added.

In addition, SB 100 stipulates that:
• Retail outlets may sell frames and lenses, and may begin to lease space to optometric physicians in a phased-in, gradual manner with a timeline based on population density;
• The doctor may not be an employee of the retail outlet, and will not receive any additional compensation for referring patients to the retail stores’ optical services;
• The care given to the patient be the main concern of the optometric physician, or other physician providing vision care;
• The doctor’s office be separate from the retail outlet’s optical shop;
• Current laws be followed in giving a patient a prescription for glasses or contact lenses.

The new legislation includes language that prohibits the retailer from selling below costs, and adds new language that puts into law requirements for a contact lens prescription and requirements for the renewal of contact lens prescriptions by persons other than the prescribing doctor.

The new rules will be phased in beginning Nov. 1, 2019, in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, according to OAOP, and then across the rest of the state by 2042.