Opinion: Optometrists back plan for one-stop eye care, prescriptions

For decades, millions of Californians have received quality eye care and filled their prescription during the same visit. This arrangement provides patients with exceptional care, broadens eye care access, and creates thousands of jobs in the state. However, due to an ambiguity in the law, optometrists, their staff, and optical employees who provide these services may be forced out of their jobs. And people like you, may no longer be able to see your local optometrist.

That’s why I am a proud supporter of Assembly Bill 778 by Assemblymember Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, a bill in the California Legislature that will preserve these important one-stop eye care locations. AB 778 clears up the ambiguity in current law and codifies the existing practice so that Californians can continue to receive eye care and fill their prescription at the same location.

As an optometrist in a low-income community, I know how important it is for my patients to get the best health care possible. These one-stop offices also offer my patients safe, regulated services. That’s because the opticians working in the facility are regulated by the Medical Board and the optometry office is regulated by the Department of Managed Health Care and the Board of Optometry. Plus, my one-stop office is able to offer convenient office hours on weekends and at night for our patients. For working Californians with limited time, this is important in order for them to receive the vision care they need.

Without AB 778, my patients and I aren’t the only ones who lose, though.

If California ends one-stop optometry, who else loses?

First and foremost, working families throughout the state lose. They are the ones who benefit most from the greater access of quality eye care with expanded hours to schedule eye care appointments.

Who else loses? Our state’s economy.

The current law has created instability and a deterrent for companies and health care plans that use the one-stop model to invest in California. If legislation is not passed to clarify the law, thousands of quality jobs in the medical field will be lost.

Who else loses? Californians, as a whole.

Having various options for optometry improves quality of vision care for all Californians. Unless legislation is passed, California could become one of only three states in the country to not allow patients to use these convenient one-stop services even though they have used them for decades.

Who else loses? Optometrists.

The one-stop model allows optometrists who choose to work in this model to focus on patient care, with reduced financial pressures of owning and operating a business. More and more optometrists would like the option to work in a group practice that co-locates with an optical store. By taking away the one-stop option, many optometrists will be forced to spend more time on paperwork and less time with patients.

Now is the time to stand up for one-stop optometry. It’s a proven model that is good for the profession, good for patients, good for California jobs.

Simply put, let’s put patients first. Let’s promote access to good optometry. And let’s support one-stop access to vision services that are working so well for our state. Please join me in supporting AB 778.

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