South Carolina legislators override veto, safeguard patients’ vision health

May 19, 2016
Bill ensures kiosks and online technology must provide same standard of care as an eye doctor.

Lawmakers took a stand for patient safety and qualified vision care after overriding an executive veto, ensuring potentially unsafe, ineffective online "vision tests" do not put South Carolinians at risk.

In the days following Gov. Nikki Haley's veto of S. 1016, the Eye Care Consumer Protection Law, on May 16, both chambers of South Carolina's General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a countermand that effectively sends the bill to the Secretary of State's office to become law. The Senate approved the veto override, May 18, in a 39 to 3 vote, while the House voted a day later to override, 98 to 1.

Jointly supported by the South Carolina Optometric Physicians Association (SCOPA) and the South Carolina Medical Association, the bipartisan S. 1016 ensures that eye care kiosks and other similar technologies be held accountable and provide the same standard of care that is expected of a qualified and competent eye care physician.

Michael Campbell, O.D., SCOPA president, calls the override a victory for eye health and vision safety.

"The override vote taken by our legislators in Columbia reverses what could have been a detrimental action to the eye health of thousands," Dr. Campbell says. "While we as optometric physicians fully support innovative technology that is of benefit to our patients, the override and enactment of this bill will continue to safeguard these families across South Carolina."

Steven A. Loomis, O.D., AOA president, lent his support of the action, as well, and reiterated that protecting patients' eye and vision health is a top public health priority for the AOA, especially when it comes to unproven products and shortcuts that lower the bar on quality care standards.

"South Carolina joins a growing number of states that have enacted critical patient eye and vision health protection legislation," Dr. Loomis says. "Doctors of optometry will continue to provide the highest quality care to our patients, and the AOA remains committed to scrutinizing any and all self-assessment tools, devices and apps that falsely claim to provide a so-called 'eye exam.' In-person, comprehensive eye exams are still the best defense against sight-threatening eye conditions and diseases."

Only days prior to the override, media outlets touted the governors' veto as a victory for one such online "vision test," Opternative, which prompts an individual through a series of charts on his or her smartphone and home computer. The AOA challenges the validity and accuracy of such tests, and has lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that continued marketing of the product violates the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA).

Affiliates, AOA continue to stand up for patient safety

Safeguarding patients against companies that tout convenience through ambiguous and sometimes inaccurate claims remains an issue of paramount importance to AOA and affiliates. The AOA contends there are severe pitfalls in separating refractive tests from routine comprehensive eye examinations performed in person by an eye doctor, and this message is circulating among government authorities, the media and public.

Prior to South Carolina, nine states have enacted critical patient protection safeguards that reinforce the benefits of in-person, comprehensive eye examinations, including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio and West Virginia.

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