FTC seeks feedback on Contact Lens and Eyeglasses rules

September 18, 2015
AOA to issue comment, encourages member insight.

Federal rules that require eye care professionals furnish patients with their prescriptions are up for review, and AOA encourages the profession to weigh in during a public comment period.

Help ensure that optometry's concerns are heard loud and clear.

As part of a periodic review process that takes place about every decade, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) initiated reviews of the Contact Lens Rule and Ophthalmic Practice (Eyeglasses) Rule on Sept. 3 to seek information about the costs and benefits, and regulatory and economic impact of such guidance, and determine the necessity for modification or rescission.

The commission requests written comment by Oct. 26, 2015, on 13 questions pertaining to both the Contact Lens Rule and the Eyeglasses Rule. Among those queries include:

  • Benefits to consumers and businesses.
  • Costs to consumers and businesses.
  • Compliance among industry.
  • Flow of information to consumers.
  • Need for modifications or outright discontinuance.

The AOA long expected these rules reviews to take place this year, and approached the commission in May to raise preliminary concerns. The AOA will submit comprehensive formal comments on both rule reviews, in the form of a letter from AOA President Steven A. Loomis, O.D. But to help ensure that optometry's concerns are heard loud and clear by agency officials in this process, the AOA looks to state associations and member doctors to submit comments as well. To assist, the AOA will provide support materials and instructions to all state leaders and affiliate staff, along with member doctors, around the first week of October.

The FTC will review public feedback before a final decision about potential rule changes, but the timeline is uncertain. In the past, the FTC did not move quickly as the Eyeglasses Rule was previously reviewed in 1985 and 1997, before being retained without change in 1989 and 2004, respectively.

About the rules

The FTC promulgated the Contact Lens Rule in 2004, pursuant to Congressional passage of the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act of 2003, and is intended to facilitate the ability of consumers to comparison shop for contact lenses while ensuring that contact lenses are sold in accordance with a valid prescription. The rule requires eye care prescribers to issue a copy of a patient's prescription upon completion of a contact lens fitting, in addition to placing certain restrictions on sellers. Most of the Contact Lens Rule is required by the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, and that statute is not subject to review under the FTC process.

The Eyeglasses Rule, first issued in 1978, requires eye care professionals to provide patients with a copy of their spectacles prescription at no extra cost immediately following an eye examination. This current review of the rule specifically asks three additional questions, including whether to require pupillary distance, whether doctors should provide duplicate copies of prescriptions at a later date, or whether doctors should provide or verify prescriptions to "third parties authorized by the patient." For more information, contact AOA's Associate Director for Coding and Regulatory Policy, Kara Webb, at kcwebb@aoa.org.

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