Purchasing contact lenses and eyeglasses in the state of Michigan now requires a prescription from a licensed doctor of optometry or ophthalmologist.
"We forever married the eye health portion of a comprehensive eye exam to the determination of refractive error in order to derive a legal prescription."
Optometry achieved this win in early July when Gov. Rick Snyder signed the Eye Care Consumer Protection Act into law. The new law prohibits the sale of eyewear without a valid prescription from a licensed eye care provider. It also prevents kiosks from conducting automated refractions and then issuing prescriptions.
"Perhaps the most significant accomplishment of this legislation is that we forever married the eye health portion of a comprehensive eye exam to the determination of refractive error in order to derive a legal prescription," says Paul A. Hodge, O.D., president of the Michigan Optometric Association (MOA). "One cannot be done without the other when establishing a prescription."
Prior to the law's passage, state law hadn't defined what constitutes a proper prescription for eyewear, Dr. Hodge says.
Advocacy on the part of the MOA and AOA helped spearhead legislation to tighten requirements on prescriptions. Prior to the bill's introduction, it was significant that optometry leaders educated key legislators and committees, "as well as meeting with potential allies to seek their support," Dr. Hodge says.
Backed by the state's medical community on the proposed legislation, the MOA's grassroots optometry team was able to get 24 lawmakers, including all nine members of the Senate Health Policy Committee, to sign on as bill co-sponsors prior to its introduction.
"Because of this effort, we were able to see strong support by lawmakers not only in each chamber of the Michigan House and Senate, but also bipartisan support among Democrats and Republicans," Dr. Hodge observes.
The law additionally gives the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (DLARA) the power to protect the public from injuries, Dr. Hodge says. "By defining and regulating prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses, DLARA will be able to take action against sales made without a prescription and take legal action against nonlicensed eye care providers in order to protect the health and safety of state residents."
The Michigan law represents one of many state legislative wins for optometry in 2014. Read about more recent wins on page 13 of the July/Aug edition of AOA Focus.
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