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Florida ODs kill yet another not-a-doctor bill

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Nine months after Florida’s governor vetoed the state’s proposed legislation that would have banned optometrists (ODs) from referring to themselves as physicians, legislators have put the ax to a second bill of the same topic.

Geez Louise. Let’s start with that original legislation.

Originally filed in the Florida Senate in February 2023, Senate Bill (S.B.) 230 referred to the usage of health care practitioners’ (HCPs) titles and abbreviations in advertisements, communications, and personal identification.

The requirements: HCPs would be required 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.

Plus: The legislation laid the groundwork for disciplinary action and license denials by a practitioner's regulatory board (warranting the Florida Optometric Association [FOA] and American Optometric Association [AOA] to oppose the bill, stating that it could potentially conflict with ODs being recognized as physicians and thus be restricted in the patient care they could offer).

And the result: Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the legislation in June 2023.

Gotcha. Now talk about this recent bill.

S.B. 1112: Health Care Practitioners Titles and Designations was reintroduced to the House in January 2024, essentially isolating ODs from other HCPs and pitting them against ophthalmologists (MDs/DOs) in another battle of the ongoing “eyeball wars” in Florida.

And its purpose?

Similar to S.B. 230, this latest legislation sought to prevent HCPs from using any titles to advertise themselves that aren’t included in their professional practice act, or in the laws governing the clinical care and services they’re allowed to provide to patients.

What kind of opposition was there?

Just as with S.B. 230, the FOA “didn’t skip a beat,” according to the AOA. In fact, the state association “immediately mobilized and educated legislators to ensure this anti-patient bill wouldn’t move forward,” the AOA stated.

So what happened?

Initially, the Florida House amended the bill to allow for ODs to use the titles “doctor of optometry” and “optometric physician” in their advertisements.

However, the state Senate opposed this adjustment and sent the legislation back to the House earlier this month.

The result: The House failed to reconsider the bill (due to disagreement over its verbiage, ultimately), before the 2024 legislative session ended on March 8, 2024, essentially “killing” it (for the time being, that is).

So what now?

While successful for this legislative session, the FOA is aware that this bill could be reintroduced in 2025.

“We are pleased the bill failed,” Kenneth Lawson, OD, FOA’s legislative chair, told AOA, “but we have to be prepared in case this is not the end of it. We’re up for the challenge. We are prepared to go on the offense.”

Any other notable legislation to be aware of?

The year 2023 was pretty major in terms of OD legislation. Aside from Connecticut’s SB-1016, which sought the same restrictions on ODs as S.B. 1112 and S.B. 230 (and later failed motion), the following legislation was introduced:

  • Connecticut: SB-899 (introduced Jan. 25, 2023)
  • California: AB-765 (introduced Feb. 13, 2023)
  • Massachusetts: Bill H.3606 (introduced March 9, 2023)
  • Texas: HB 2324 (introduced March 9, 2023)
  • Wisconsin: SB143 (introduced March 23, 2023)
  • North Carolina: H576 (filed April 5, 2023)

And see here for up-to-date legislative news.

*Disclaimer: The information provided in this article does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, materials available herein are for general information purposes only.