Optometrists Counter Good Technology With Bad Legislation

Big Eye is pushing a false media narrative in order to kill technology that is jeopardizing the safety of their business model.
04/13/2017 03:53 pm ET Updated Apr 13, 2017

Crony capitalists donning the halls of K-Street are laughably continuing with their losing battles to ban smartphone-based technology that has improved American families’ lives to immeasurable degrees.

Developments like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb have created more convenient products and services for consumers while slashing prices to record lows. There is nothing to hate about these groundbreaking innovations ― that is, unless you work in one of the dying industries that these apps are challenging.

As one would expect, these bad actors are turning to their cronies in government with fake news in a shameless push to advance crony legislation that would artificially pad their bottom lines.

One crony capitalist fight that’s not getting the press it deserves, though, is in the healthcare arena. There is now groundbreaking technology that allows consumers to receive eye exams, signed off on by medical doctors, with the use of a smartphone or computer screen. This is great news for consumers, particularly those in rural America who live far away from such health professionals, who receive what they need with no hassle or wait time.

But just like the disgruntled taxi drivers and hotel owners, the members of the medical lobby cartel are doing everything they can to restrict consumer access to ocular telemedicine applications.

Unlike ophthalmologists, optometrists depend on the sale of overpriced lenses purchased directly from their offices to stay afloat. The eye exam is, of course, the vehicle used to get customers in the door, so this technology poses a grave threat to their business model. As a result, the eye care practitioners and their lobbyists are pushing legislation that will effectively ban the use of telemedicine in many states.

Their main argument is that this new technology cannot check for concerns like eye infections. Of course, what they are forgetting to mention is that there is a difference between an eye prescription and eye health exam. Even consumers that use ocular telemedicine still need to receive eye health exams, but even the American Optometric Association ― the group leading the push against telemedicine ― admits that this is only necessary for health adults once every 1-2 years.

In short, Big Eye is pushing a false media narrative in order to kill technology that is jeopardizing the safety of their business model. Thankfully for us, this cartel isn’t coming even remotely close to winning their fights. Last week in New Mexico, the eye care industry quivered as Deborah Armstrong and Sheryl Williams-Stapleton’s anti-ocular telemedicine legislation received the veto stamp from the state’s governor, Susana Martinez, who is well aware that the new technology should be encouraged, not prohibited, by the state government. A similar veto came in South Carolina last year, when then-Gov. Nikki Haley affirmed that the medical lobby was “[using] health practice mandates to stifle competition for the benefit of a single industry.”

Also last week, the Montana state senate defeated the anti-telemedicine bill in the state by a wide margin. At the same time in Nevada, Assemblywoman Jill Tolles picked up on the medical lobby’s fabrications and pulled her anti anti-ocular telemedicine bill from consideration.

Hopefully, these losing battles discourage the straggling peddlers in other states from pushing their unpopular and unethical bills. But currently, there are still efforts in place in Connecticut by Rep. Kevin Ryan ― ironically, a former optometrist ― and Rhode Island by Rep. Robert Jacquard and Sen. Frank Ciccone to restrict consumer access to telemedicine.

It would be wise for these legislative sponsors to take some time to analyze the facts of the matter at hand and withdraw their support for these bills. The innovation that this kind of technology brings about is a huge benefit to consumers, and legislators should stand on the side of consumers and technology rather than on the side of protectionism.

It is becoming clear that restricting access to healthcare technology will not be a winning battle for the eye care industry. For those state legislators that choose to give the eye care industry what it wants, voters will remember come election time.

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