By: Tara Isa Koslov, Michael G. Vita and D. Bruce Hoffman –
We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your invitation for comments on the likely competitive impact of Substitute Senate Bill 5411/H.B. 1473 (“the Bill”).1 In particular, you asked us to comment on the likely impact of the proposed legislation on Washington consumers and the market. If adopted, the Bill would require licensed ophthalmologists and optometrists to conduct an in-person, comprehensive eye examination before providing prescriptions for eyeglass and contact lenses. This requirement would restrict the use of telehealth eye care in which a practitioner distant from a patient uses data received by telecommunications as the basis for a prescription for corrective lenses.
We are concerned that the Bill may reduce competition, access, and consumer choice in eye care and might also raise costs for consumers.2 First, the Bill’s requirements would restrict the use of telehealth eye care by qualified vision care providers, which would deny consumers the benefits of innovative eye care telehealth technologies. Second, the Bill might require unnecessary services by mandating a comprehensive examination before prescribing corrective lenses, regardless of the patient’s visual health status, examination history, or other circumstances. This requirement 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.