It’s been nearly three years since the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) amended the Contact Lens Rule, and providers who do not comply could face significant civil penalties. The AOA offers an abundance of resources to help members adhere to the rule.
Under the requirements, contact lens prescribers:
- Must have patients sign acknowledgement forms indicating they are in receipt of their prescriptions.
- Practices also can adhere to the regulations by seeking patient consent to send contact lens prescriptions electronically—such as through a patient portal or email.
- Further, practices are now required to keep record of those confirmations for at least three years.
- Provide a copy of the contact lens prescription to anyone acting as the patient’s agent.
The penalty for noncompliance can result in legal action including civil monetary penalties of up to $50,120 for each violation, a threat against doctors that the AOA will continue to stand firmly against. If the FTC were to receive a complaint regarding a doctor’s practice, the agency reports that it would then engage directly with the practice to gather details and assess the situation to determine a fine it deems appropriate, if necessary.
Tools to ensure compliance
Safeguarding the doctor-patient relationship and advocating for its members are the AOA’s top priorities. To help members remain in compliance with the Contact Lens Rule, the AOA created these resources:
AOA’s FTC Rule Compliance Toolkit. This toolkit includes information and guidance regarding how prescribers can comply with the updated regulations.
Prescription requests from retailers. Important information from AOA legal counsel. Although the AOA has raised concerns about the practices of some retailers with regard to prescription requests, it is important for doctors to promptly respond to such requests, just as they do for contact lens verifications. Failure to respond to requests for copies of the patient’s prescription by retailers can result in fines and penalties for doctors. Likewise, doctors should raise any questions or concerns regarding specific requests promptly and keep records of correspondence.
In late 2022, then-AOA President Robert C. Layman, O.D., sent a letter to Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, seeking clarification on patient agent requests.
“According to AOA members, one contact lens retailer will often wait several months after patient authorization has been obtained before reaching out to the physician on behalf of the patient. In one specific case, the retailer’s request for a copy of the contact lens prescription was not received by the doctor of optometry until after the patient had received LASIK surgery and no longer wore contact lenses. We are concerned that some retailers are seeking copies of prescriptions close to their expiration date so that they can sell additional lenses to the patient after the original prescription expires,” the letter reads.
“We recommend that FTC establish a rule whereby the authorization to act on behalf of the patient remains valid for no longer than 90 days.”
AOA is awaiting FTC feedback on this recommendation and will continue to advocate for common-sense policies that put patients over profits.
Every AOA doctor and student can advocate for optometry and patient safety
The AOA is an advocacy force in Washington, D.C., ensuring that optometry is recognized and heeded on health care policy and other issues impacting practices, patients and public health. AOA doctors and students as well as its professional advocacy team are at the center of a 24/7/365 presence in the nation’s capital.
Here are three ways to help ensure that illegal contact lens sellers are held accountable and adverse patient outcomes are reported:
- Report a website illegally sellingcontact lenses.
- Report an adverse event related to contact lenses.
- Email a de-identified case report to StopIllegalCLs@aoa.org to help bolster AOA advocacy against harmful contact lens practices. Include the state where you practice in your email.
Medicare’s latest proposed rule builds on efforts to rein back Medicare Advantage plans with the AOA contributing comments that reiterate the need to eliminate plans’ barriers to care and promote transparency.
Ensuring our nation’s veterans have access to the full range of eye care they need, when and where they need it, has long been a mission for optometry’s advocates. Now, a pair of Veterans Health Administration directives affecting optometry could have far-reaching consequences beyond the nation’s largest integrated health care network.
In a recent one-on-one conversation with Federal Trade Commission staff, the AOA again urges the agency to reconsider a proposal requiring patients to sign forms attesting that they have received copies of their eyeglass prescriptions. For small-business optometric practices, the requirement would be burdensome from a paperwork perspective and unnecessary given that consumers are more empowered than ever, the AOA says—again.