Dear Speaker Pro Tempore Kennedy:
The Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Policy Planning appreciates your request for comments on House Bill No. 7608/Senate Bill No. 2404 (“the Bill”), the “Consumer Protection in Eye Care Act.” Specifically, the Bill would restrict ocular telehealth in Rhode Island by prohibiting the use of an automated computer program or other eye examination equipment to generate a prescription for contact lenses or glasses unless the ophthalmologist or optometrist who interprets the results has an established doctor-patient relationship with the patient and has previously evaluated the patient in person. Your letter requested the FTC’s views on “the impact that such legislation would have on consumers and specifically the marketplace.”
We understand that the Bill is currently in the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare and the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, but the Rhode Island General Assembly is expected to adjourn in 2-3 weeks. Given these time constraints, FTC staff cannot conduct a specific analysis of the Bill. We expect, however, that the attached letter, a prior FTC staff analysis of a proposed ocular telemedicine law in Washington State, may be helpful to you and your colleagues as you consider the merits of the Bill. The Washington State bill included a provision requiring an in-person eye examination for corrective lens prescriptions. We were concerned that the Washington bill might reduce competition, access, and consumer choice in eye care and might also raise costs for consumers. Thus, the FTC staff letter commenting on the bill suggested that the legislature consider whether an inflexible in-person examination requirement is necessary to achieve health and safety or other legitimate goals of the legislation, or whether allowing licenses to decide the nature of the examination and whether and under what circumstances to use telehealth would better promote competition and access to safe and affordable care.
We hope the attached document will be helpful as the Rhode Island General Assembly considers the Bill.
Director, Office of Policy Planning
Federal Trade Commission