Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt approved legislation on May 21 that will allow optometrists to practice within retail establishments.
SB100 allows stores to rent space to optometrists, provided it is “a separate area or room ... or adjacent to a retail store.”
The legislation specifies that the area in which optometry will be practiced “must have a patient’s entrance opening on a public thoroughfare, such as a public street, hall, lobby or corridor...”
It further specifies that the lessor cannot require that the optometrist maintain certain hours and that the lessor is permitted to sell frames and spectacle lenses.
Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians (OAOP) chief executive director Joel Robison told Primary Care Optometry News: “SB100 is a compromise bill with the intent of protecting independent optometrists and patient care while providing additional avenues for the purchase of frames and lenses.”
Robison explained the debate’s history.
“In 2018, Walmart and other big box stores pursued a constitutional change that would have allowed for the employment of optometrists as well as the limitation of the scope of practice by a retailer,” he said. “The resulting statewide campaign cost the OAOP as well as Walmart several million dollars. Oklahomans sided with the association and turned down the question by a narrow margin.
“During the 2019 legislative session, it became clear that the push by big box retailers was not going away and it would probably result in additional state questions,” Robison continued. “OAOP decided to pursue our own legislation.”
Robison said a survey of the OAOP membership found they supported the concept of a compromise but requested that the legislation:.
- protect the independent practice of optometry;
- protect the doctor and patient;
- include predatory pricing language;
- be phased in; and
- allow for the sale of frames and lenses inside retail stores.
“We were successfully able to attain these objectives in SB100,” Robison told PCON.
“We are pleased that we were able to fashion this legislation to focus on patient care and independent optometry,” he said. “The bill meets the concerns expressed by Oklahomans about increased availability of eye wear without lowering the level of care they can expect when visiting any Oklahoma optometrist.”
The act will become effective Nov. 1, 2019. – by Nancy Hemphill, ELS, FAAO
Disclosure: Robison is employed by the OAOP.