The American Optometric Association (AOA) announced that, along with state associations in Florida, Connecticut, and Texas, it will fight new legislation that seeks to potentially block, limit, or discourage doctors of optometry from being referenced as doctors and physicians.
Give me some background on optometry legislation.
According to the AOA, advocacy leaders view state “Not a Doctor” bills as a continuation of the previous American Medical Association-backed campaign previously introduced into legislation (and was ultimately rejected by Congress).
In just the last 2 years, state optometry associations in Wyoming (HB 0039), Mississippi (HB 1302), Virginia (SB375), and Colorado (HB 22-1233) have succeeded in advocating for the passing of bills that expanded the scope of practice for optometrists, including permitting them to perform certain optometric laser procedures in glaucoma and post-cataract care.
Now tell me about the Florida bill.
Senate Bill 230, filed in the Florida Senate in February, refers to the usage of health care practitioners’ (HCPs’) titles and abbreviations in advertisements, communications, and personal identification.
The bill requires for HCPs to disclose the type of license under which an individual practitioner is authorized to provide services along with their title and abbreviations specified by the bill when treating patients.
Further, it lays the groundwork for disciplinary action and license denials by a practitioner's regulatory board.
And the concern?
The AOA stated that, while the bill does not refer to optometry specifically, the title restrictions could set a precedent that might be used against doctors of optometry in regards to their qualifications (and access) to provide patient care, particularly for those specializing in certain areas within the field.
Further, the AOA points out “the proposed ban on the use of the term ‘physician’ in any capacity potentially conflicts with the recognition of physician status for optometrists under federal law utilized by Medicare.”
Any other legislation to know about?
In Connecticut, optometrists are excluded from SB 1016, which targets concerns regarding health care providers’ advertising.
H.B.2324 was also introduced into the Texas Senate in February and pertains to the regulation of certain health care professionals and facilities (specifically affecting the nursing profession).
While Texas’s bill—in its current form—wouldn’t affect optometrists, the Texas Optometric Association’s director of advocacy, Tommy Lucas, OD, advised that states should be vigilant “in protecting patients from confusing public policy that would potentially delay and hinder their important eye care.”