Optometrists got another win as a Senate panel agreed they should be allowed to perform certain surgeries. HB 1065 has already cleared the House and now heads to the Senate Floor. Denham Springs Rep. Rogers Pope says his bill does not require people to do anything and they could still go anywhere they wanted to get eye treatment.
"But we do have an opportunity through this legislation, in my opinion, to give them a chance to go some place that they can get some very GOOD eye care at a cheaper price and with less travel," said Pope.
Dr. James Sandifer is the executive director of the Optometry Association of Louisiana. He says they have worked hard on the controversial legislation to keep the opposition happy in addressing the exact procedures this bill would allow optometrists to perform.
Sandifer says this measure is about access and consumer choice.
"Currently in Louisiana there are ophthalmology offices in fewer than half the parishes but there are optometry offices in all but a few," said Sandifer. "Consequently the procedures that are allowed in this bill are not available in over half the parishes."
In opposition is Pamala Williams who is a pediatric ophthalmologist in Baton Rouge. She says 90% of people polled in Louisiana say they have the eye care they need available to them.
"There is not an access problem in Louisiana," said Williams. "There are ophthalmologists scattered all over this state."
Williams says an unintended consequence of this bill would make Louisiana a less favorable environment to practice ophthalmology.
"Not only will young ophthalmologists be tempted to go elsewhere and leave this state," said Williams. "But so would young medical doctors who are finishing their training will find Louisiana a less hospitable place to practice medicine..then we really will have an access problem."