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By: Eric Wicklund –

The Federal Trade Commission is wading into the ocular telehealth battle, now being fought in Washington.

The agency has come out against Substitute Senate Bill 5411/HB 1473, which, if adopted, would require optometrists and ophthalmologists in the Pacific Northwest state to conduct eye exams in person before issuing prescriptions for contact lenses or glasses.

In an 11-page letter to State Rep. Paul Graves, The FTC argues that the proposed bill would unfairly restrict the consumer’s ability to access eye care services and raise the cost of eyeglasses and contact lenses. It would also, the agency said, mandate a comprehensive eye exam regardless of whether one is needed, and “could override the judgment of a vision care provider who otherwise would have concluded that the standard of care could be met with more limited services, either in-person, or if allowed, by telehealth.”

“By requiring an in-person, comprehensive eye examination for all corrective lens prescriptions, the Bill would restrict the use of innovative telehealth eye care technologies, and also could require examinations that are more extensive and costly than necessary,” the FTC said.

The debate over using telehealth or telemedicine to conduct eye exams and issue prescriptions is being waged in several states. It pits state legislators and some medical boards and clinicians against a growing cadre of practitioners using telehealth and online eye care companies like Opternative, Warby Parker, Simple Contacts and 1-800-CONTACTS who say an online platform is as safe as an in-person exam and is much less expensive for the consumer.

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