Mississippi, Wyoming pass legislation expanding optometric scope of practice
Wyoming has joined Mississippi in passing legislation to expand optometric scope of practice, including certain surgical and prescription rights.
The Mississippi legislation grants optometrists the right to use local anesthesia by injection for procedures including excision of certain epidermal lesions, incision and curettage of nonrecurrent chalazion, and eyelid laceration repair, among other rights. The Wyoming legislation expands optometrists’ rights to prescribe and administer pharmaceuticals and perform laser procedures not explicitly prohibited in the legislation’s text.
“Optometry plays a very critical role in the delivery of eye care to the public, but surgery and complex medical decisions are just not in their sphere of education and training to do that safely for patients. That is really the biggest concern,” Kenneth P. Cheng, MD, board chair of Safe Eyes America, told Healio/OSN. Safe Eyes America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to education of the public and the delivery of high-quality eye care.
“The thing to keep in mind is that these are legislative decisions being made not based on the information available or the effect on the public, but because of the effects of political influence,” Cheng said.
House Bill 1302 was signed into law on March 17 by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves. In Wyoming, House Bill 0039 was signed into law on April 2 by Gov. Mark Gordon.
“Organized optometry and optometrists are really good at building political relationships. That’s how these bills get passed,” Cheng said. “And that’s really why ophthalmologists need to be better at relationship building — they need to get active politically.”
Each state that passes a similar expansion creates a stronger precedent for optometrists to lobby for expansion in other states, Cheng said.
“Optometrists ask the legislators to be allowed to perform surgery and more complicated medical care, which, frankly, they have no business doing because if the patient is that complicated, they should be seeing an ophthalmologist, and the legislators don’t hear from anyone else,” Cheng said. Safe Eyes America’s aim is to educate the public and to give it a voice, he said.
Optometrist practice act amendments, H.B. 0039 (2021). https://legiscan.com/WY/bill/HB0039/2021.
Optometry; Board shall define practice of, and authorize to perform certain procedures and use and prescribe certain drugs, H.B. 1302 (2021). https://legiscan.com/MS/bill/HB1302/2021.