Optometrists’ well-financed bill is first to clear General Assembly

The bill that would significantly increase the care optometrists can provide passed the House Friday morning by a 81-14 vote. The bill, which now heads to Gov. Steve Beshear’s desk, is the first this session to clear both houses of the General Assembly, The Courier-Journal‘s Tom Loftus reports.
Since it was filed Feb. 7, Senate Bill 110 has been cause for controversy, in part because of its speedy passage. It passed the full Senate last week, passed the House Licensing and Occupations Committee Wednesday and was voted on by the full House this morning. Loftus notes that optometrists have made more than $400,000 in campaign contributions to legislators and Gov. Steve Beshear in the past two years.
The bill allows optometrists, who do not attend medical school, to perform more types of procedures, most notably one that uses a laser to fix complications that can arise from cataract surgery. Only optometrists in Oklahoma are likewise allowed to use lasers while treating their patients; in every other state, only ophthalmologists — medical doctors trained to perform eye surgeries —  can. The bill also allows optometrists to prescribe certain drugs and lets the state Board of Optometric Examiners define what procedures optometrists can legally perform.

On Thursday, ophthalmologists voiced their displeasure, saying they believe rules were broken in passing the bill. The bill should have been heard by the Health and Welfare committees, not the licensing committees, they say. “We hope that someone in the House (which now has the bill) will appeal for this to be corrected and … sent to the proper committee so that the facts can be heard,” said Woodford Van Meter, president of the Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate Majority Floor Leader Robert Stivers, the bill’s sponsor, disagreed, saying the bill affects the licensing of optometrists. Ophthalmologists note the Senate and House rules say the health committees have “general jurisdiction” over “matters pertaining to … optometrists.” (Read more)
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