‘Eyeball wars’ return to the Florida Legislature

Jan 22, 2013

The following article was published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on January 22, 2013:

“Eyeball Wars” return to the Florida Legislature

By Lloyd Dunkelberger


A perennial battle between optometrists and ophthalmologists returns to the Florida Legislature this spring.

Known as the “eyeball wars,” the optometrists will push again for the right to prescribe certain oral medications for their patients. They have historically been opposed by the ophthalmologists.

And to some extent, legislative leaders have grown weary of the annual confrontation.

“This battle uses up so much bandwidth in health care, so much oxygen in the room, that we find ourselves unable to deal with more serious issues in health care because we are consumed with the eyeball wars,” Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, once said.

Last year, the Florida Medical Association, which is allied with the ophthalmologists, noted the growing power of the optometrists and tried to cut a deal, but the effort eventually fell through.

Now Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, and state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Leigh Acres, have filed bills allowing the optometrists to prescribe the medication.

“Senate Bill 278 is about making sure Floridians can get the care they need from an optometrist who is more than qualified to attend to their needs,” Richter said in a statement.

Here is a release from the Florida Optometric Association in support of the legislation:

The Florida Optometric Association (FOA) today commended Senator Garrett Richter (R-Naples) and Representative Matt Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres) for filing legislation that ensures access to quality, affordable eye care for all Floridians by allowing optometrists to prescribe approved oral medication for the treatment of eye disease and ailments.

“Optometrists play a vital role in ensuring that all Floridians have access to quality, affordable eye care, and the legislation sponsored by Senator Richter and Representative Caldwell will enhance optometrists’ ability to care for all Floridians, particularly those who live in rural counties,” said Dr. Ken Lawson, FOA Legislative Chair. “We look forward to supporting this legislation and having an open dialogue on this important issue that impacts so many Floridians.”

“Senate Bill 278 is about making sure Floridians can get the care they need from an optometrist who is more than qualified to attend to their needs,” said Senator Richter. “Currently, under Florida law, optometrists are not able to prescribe oral medication, even in instances where it is necessary, to treat their patients. Moreover, the oral medications that optometrists are not legally allowed to prescribe are often identical to the eye drops or ointments they can prescribe.”

“Instead of being able to care for their patients, optometrists must refer those who are in need of oral medication to an ophthalmologist, where the patient will then have to pay a second time for eye care and may even have to travel to a neighboring county to find an ophthalmologist,” said Senator Richter. “During a time that we, as a state, are focused on providing access to quality care to all Floridians, this is a much-needed and simple fix to current law.”

“The legislation we have filed is a common-sense update to Florida’s current law and will provide Floridians with more health care options,” said Representative Caldwell. “Optometrists in 47 other states are already effectively prescribing various levels of oral drugs to their patients, begging the question – why limit Floridians health care options in this area? In addition, optometrists are educated and trained to provide this care and have the appropriate level of pharmacology training to prescribe these oral medications.”

“I look forward to having this conversation with my colleagues in the House, and I am hopeful that we will see this legislation pass during the 2013 session,” concluded Representative Caldwell.

To learn more about the FOA, please visit www.floridaeyes.org.

To view the orignial article, click here:  http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2013/01/22/eyeball-wars-return-to-the-florida-legislature/