Proposal in Utah would restrict contact lens patient choice, disrupt doctor-patient relationship

January 10, 2024
State legislator authors misguided plan to block contact lens sales by doctors.
Magnifying glass with word flaws under it

Patients could lose the ability to purchase contact lenses directly from their prescribing eye doctor under proposed legislation in Utah that analysis shows would cost patients and independent practices dearly. 

Introduced by state Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-District 44, on Jan. 5, H.B. 189, would amend Utah’s contact lens retail statute not only to prohibit the contact lens prescriber from selling the prescribed contact lens to their patient but also to require additional actions of contact lens prescribers, including: 

  • Providing certain information to the patient during the patient consultation; 
  • Documenting certain information related to the patient interaction; and 
  • Providing a patient with a prescription for a specific brand or manufacturer, if medically appropriate, at the patient’s request. 

The measure would direct prescribing doctors to inform patients that they may have other brand and manufacturer options for their contact lenses, as well as require documentation of specific patient preferences, while also reiterating adherence to the federal Contact Lens Rule requirements for prescription release. Significantly, the bill would prevent specialty contact lens wearers from receiving their lenses within Utah if the bill is passed as written. 

The Utah Optometric Association is aware of H.B. 189 and has reached out to Rep. Teuscher to discuss the bill and its negative effects on patient care in Utah. 

After a prompt study of the provisions of the legislation, AOA Advocacy Executive Committee Chair William T. Reynolds, O.D., expressed concern about the potential consequences for the doctor-patient relationship.  

“I’ve reviewed this proposal and find its flawed approach to be anti-patient and anti-doctor,” Dr. Reynolds says. “Our health care system deserves better.” 

Similarly, analysis by the NERA Economic Consulting firm found the proposed amendments would “drastically” reduce options for Utahns seeking to purchase contact lenses and likely result in additional costs incurred for finding alternative sellers. The analysis, written by Andrew Stivers, Ph.D., highlighted the toll of such an amendment taking effect: 

  • 38% of current contact lens consumers would be forced to find a new way to get their contact lenses; 
  • 40% of contact lens purchasers cite a personal relationship with their doctor or staff as a reason they purchased from a private practice. 
  • 18% of Utahns do not shop online and may face challenges to obtaining their contact lenses. 

Over a third of contact lens consumers say the ability to get an exam and lenses in the same place is why they chose a private practice, yet the analysis notes that some consumers are likely to drop their independent prescriber in favor of chain or big-box stores with allowed in-house prescription services. 

“State Rep. Jordan Teuscher has introduced amendments to Utah’s contact lens retail sales statutes that would shut down prescriber-owned prescription eyewear retail shops,” Dr. Stivers writes. 

“These amendments would harm competition by removing a significant group of small, locally owned businesses from competing in the marketplace.” 

The analysis concludes divestiture of such specialized retail shops would be difficult and would result in “substantial loss of this retail channel,” while both price and service are also likely to suffer. 

Learn more about the Contact Lens Rule and Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, as well as AOA’s contact lens advocacy. 

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