California Optometric Association Legislative Day Recap

On April 20th, San Diego optometrists joined together with ODs and optometry students from throughout California to make our voices collectively heard at the capitol.  COA’s Legislative Day is an annual tradition which allows us to show our strength in numbers and advocate for our profession and for our patients.  Together we can make the legislative changes possible to ensure accessible, safe, and quality eye care for all those in need in California.  Throughout the day, we met with local legislators to discuss our role as eye care providers, the training we receive, and how we can be better utilized to meet the needs of our patients.  I’m confident we made a positive impact on legislation and we will see the benefits of our efforts as the year progresses.  If you were not able to make it to Legislative Day, we still appreciate your support as a COA member.  You can always help locally by showing support of optometry’s issues with your legislators.  Grassroots efforts in the form of calls, letters, and e-mails to your local assemblyperson and senator are powerful as legislators will always prioritize the interests of their vocal constituents.

This year we came to the capitol with a focused agenda.  To quote COA’s President-Elect Dr. Sage Hider, “We have one job today, to pass SB 622.”  SB 622 is a bill introduced by Senator (and Optometrist) Ed Hernandez which aims to expand the scope of practice of optometry and increase access to affordable eye care for Californians.  This bill has two main provisions:

  1. Clean-up provisions.  This includes language that cleans up the practice act and consolidates referral requirements.  This has not been controversial.
  2. It also creates three new certifications that glaucoma certified doctors may obtain with post-graduate training:
    1. Lasers:  for glaucoma and Yag capsulotomy
    2. Minor procedures: removing small skin tags, cysts, and warts from the eyelid
    3. Immunizations: limited to flu, shingles and pneumococcus for those over 18 years old

SB 622 will achieve the goal of expanding access to eye care.  Doctors of optometry already provide 81 percent of the eye care under the Medi-Cal program.  SB 622 will significantly reduce waiting times and assist a large portion of California’s population, particularly in rural and medically underserved areas of the state.

The bill builds upon the framework approved by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee last year and has been further fine-tuned by the Senate Business and Professions Committee this year. As such, the bill was unanimously supported by Senate Business and Professions Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee. It passed the Senate Floor by an overwhelming 34-4.  It is currently in the Assembly Business and Professions Committee.

Thank you to the San Diego doctors who took time out of their busy schedules to better inform legislators at the capitol!  Please feel free to personally thank Drs. Robert Meisel, Richard Skay, Jason Tu, Robert Grazian, Ketan Bakriwala, Greg Hom, and Douglas Osborne if you get the chance!  I also have especially exciting news to announce as Dr. Robert Meisel won COA’s Key Person of the Year!  Congratulations to Dr. Meisel, it is an award well deserved!