(Chuck Muth) – Ever gotten an x-ray or MRI?
For those who may have missed out on this common medical experience, it works like this: A technician operates the equipment and obtains the images. The results are then sent to a doctor who reviews the results and makes a diagnosis and prescribes a treatment.
Same happens when you go in for a blood test. A nurse draws your blood – and if you’re a good boy like me, gives you a lollipop afterwards.
She (or he, to be perfectly politically correct) then forwards the sample to a lab which prepares a report on the test results. The test results are then sent to a doctor who evaluates them and prescribes an appropriate treatment.
Same when the nurse takes your temperature or checks your heart rate and blood pressure.
The doctor himself or herself is rarely in the room when the tests themselves are conducted. He or she simply review the results after the fact.
But in an effort to screw over patients/consumers/taxpayers/voters, the California Legislature is considering a bill (AB 156) that would upend this long-standing, common practice in an effort to protect a deep-pocketed special interest: Eye doctors.
You see, optometrists, as they prefer to be called, are the only medical professionals – other than veterinarians – who are allowed to both issue you a prescription AND sell you the prescription under the same roof. Cha-ching!
But thanks to the advent of online and discount retail store competition, consumers who are no longer a “captive audience” are saving both time and money when making their eyeglass and contact lens purchases – which is eating into the eye docs’ profits.
So there’s only one thing to do…
No, silly. Not lower their prices or make things more convenient for customers. Ask the government to protect them from competitors!
Enter California Assemblyman Randy Voepel (R-District 71).
According to Assemblyman Voepel’s campaign website, he is “working hard” to “reduce the size and scope of state government” and has “consistently voted against legislation that would expand unnecessary red tape and costs for businesses.”
He goes on to boast of a “proven record of fighting for conservative policies.”
So it seems odd that Assemblyman Voepel would be the sponsor of AB 156 – the “Consumer Protection in Eye Care Act” – with a provision in it that GROWS the size and scope of government, EXPANDS unnecessary red tape, INCREASES the cost for some businesses, and DEFIES the conservative principle of free-market competition.
At issue is emerging tele-medicine technology that allows someone to take an eye test (“assessment mechanism” in politician-talk) for prescription RENEWALS online using their mobile phone or laptop computer and then have the test results reviewed by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist who would then issue the proper prescription for your eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Just like getting an x-ray, an MRI or a blood test.
These fast-growing online eye tests – sorry, assessment mechanisms – for RENEWALS are extremely convenient (especially for folks living in rural areas), exceptionally accurate and awfully less expensive than an in-office visit. What’s not to love, right?
But here comes the poison pill…
Section 2548.2 of the bill stipulates that “A person shall not operate an assessment mechanism (“eye test” in regular-people terms) to conduct an eye assessment” unless “There is simultaneous interaction between the patient and the licensed optometrist…”
In other words, you can’t take an eye test online and then have an optometrist review the results after the fact. He or she must be online with you.
This is like forcing your doctor to be in the room with you when the nurse is taking your temperature or checking your heart rate and blood pressure. Insane.
Why would a self-described conservative Republican propose such a provision that grows the size and scope of government, expands unnecessary red tape, and costs patients/consumers/taxpayers/voters more time, aggravation and money?
It couldn’t have anything to do with the campaign contributions he received from optometrists in his last election could it? I mean, that’s not how politics works, right?
(Mr. Muth is president of CitizenOutreach.org and publisher of NevadaNewsandViews.com. He blogs at MuthsTruths.com. His views are his own.)