National Taxpayers Union and Consumer Action weigh in on HB 4356, a bipartisan bill in the Michigan Legislature that if passed would allow eligible Michigan residents to get their prescriptions renewed online.

  • Around 45 million Americans wear contact lenses, and more than 160 million Americans are projected to wear glasses. But as optometrist offices temporarily shut down across Michigan in the early days of the pandemic, patients could not get their prescriptions renewed or get copies of their prescriptions to purchase needed eyeglasses and contacts. That’s because Michigan is one of a handful of states that hampers the use of innovative telemedicine for vision care.
  • Online vision tests have been offered safely across the country since 2016, providing much-needed renewal exams with no known reported safety complaints. One reason for this successful track record is that laws in the various states carefully delineate how these procedures occur.
  • In addition, the laws limit the age at which telemedicine eye-care renewals are permitted. The American Academy of Ophthalmologists recommends that healthy adults under the age of 40 receive an in-person eye exam every five to 10 years; among older patients, the recommended interval is four years or fewer. This means that for many of us, there is no need to return to a provider’s office on an annual basis simply to renew a contact lens prescription.
  • As a further precaution, telehealth customers undergo eye health screenings and their online prescription renewals are reviewed and approved by ophthalmologists, who are specifically licensed to practice in Michigan.

The benefits of this innovative technology are palpable. The services are available 24 hours a day, so that consumers no longer have to rush across town, drive for miles to the nearest city or take off work to get a prescription renewed — or worse, travel for hours if they live in a community with no eye doctors.

These services are also generally less expensive than visiting an eye-care provider in person. By extension, taxpayers who help fund state employee health insurance programs save money too, and those savings extend across numerous public health programs which embrace telemedicine opportunities.

Read the full article in The Detroit News here.