CA scope bill no longer active

August 29, 2014

A bill in California (SB 492) which as originally written would have granted expanded scope to optometrists was recently moved to inactive status.

A bill in California (SB 492) which as originally written would have granted expanded scope to optometrists was recently moved to inactive status.

The bill would have designated optometrists as primary-care providers to diagnose and treat patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, in anticipation of a provider shortage after millions of uninsured persons gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Also originally included were laser procedures, narcotic prescribing authority, and immunization administration.

“Ultimately, while the bill is still alive, it has been reduced to authorizing ODs to give some immunizations and an agreement with the chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee to amending clean-up language to the current practice act,” says John G. Rosten, OD, California Optometric Association (COA) president in a letter to the COA membership.

The bill was originally put forward in February 2013 by California Senator Ed Hernandez, OD (D-West Covina), and it was tabled in August 2014 by Assembly Member V. Manuel Pérez (D-District 56).

COA leadership plans to reintroduce the bill next year. At that time, it will receive a new bill number and start over through the legislative process. The bill’s language may change as well, depending on internal discussions planned to take place during the legislative break.

“SB 492 was diminished to a state that would not have benefited Californians seeking proper eye care,” says Dr. Rosten. “Our goal is to allow optometrists to practice more fully aligned with their education, training, and experience. We believe legislators will be true to their word and open to genuine discourse next year. Many lawmakers have been in office only a short time and said they needed more time to understand the true consequences of scope before voting. We are grateful for the effort put forth by Sen. Hernandez and look forward to working with the legislature to pass meaningful scope of practice legislation next year.”

Says Pismo Beach, CA, OD Scott Schachter: “This is a missed opportunity for optometry and our patients for a chance to practice to my ability and training. It would be nice to be able to treat some of these minor conditions that I refer out now, especially the lumps and bumps. People are busy, in general, and appreciate when we can manage conditions without the hassle of referrals. And it is absurd that I went through all of the training so that I can write Lumigan (bimatoprost, Allergan) but not Latisse (bimatoprost, Allergan).”

SB 492 was one of three bills introduced simultaneously to increase the privileges of non-physician healthcare providers. Companion bills would have allowed nurse practitioners to establish independent practices and designated pharmacists as primary-care providers.

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