By Amanda Dexter, O.D.With the California Legislator’s bill introduction deadline being February 27th several bills that can impact our profession that we should keep an eye on as they make their way through the legislative process this year. Many of the bills are expected to be amended, and language will likely change throughout their course, but I’d like to give you an idea of what’s on the horizon, especially since COA Legislative Day is just around the corner. -SB 622
This is a COA sponsored bill by Senator Ed Hernandez that will aim to redefine the practice and scope of optometry in California. It is expected that this bill will contain language that will eliminate the list of medications and conditions that optometrists can use and treat. It may also include a scope of practice expansion that would allow optometrists to utilize certain lasers, and perform certain immunizations; however, at this point, the bill language is not available yet. -SB 402
This bill is sponsored by the California State Board of Optometry and states that children will be required to get a comprehensive eye examination by an eye care professional before kindergarten and then every two years thereafter until the age of eight. This would be in lieu of the vision screenings that children typically receive at school by the school nurse or at their primary care doctor’s office. -SB 243 and AB 366
These two bills are identical bills that would seek to restore Medi-Cal reimbursement rates to the previous level prior to their reduction in 2011. Currently, the maximum reimbursement for optometry services is extremely low compared to similar services in other states. -AB 595
Recently, the State of California Attorney General’s office announced that NAOO litigation that challenged the constitutionality of Business and Professions Codes 655 and 2556 is now over. These laws prohibit certain relationships between optometrists and registered dispensing opticians. This now allows the State Board of Optometry to take action and enforce these state laws against individual ODs who practice unlawfully. To combat this, the NAOO has recently sponsored a bill to amend B&P code 655 and allow these relationships between an OD and RDO to occur because several chain stores are concerned that their business models may not comply with the law. -AB 789
This bill is sponsored by 1-800 Contacts and would prevent contact lens manufacturers from continuing with a uniform pricing policy (UPP) which sets a minimum retail price for contact lenses. It is also speculated that this bill will further include language that will propose to allow a contact lens retailer to substitute a contact lens brand without approval from the eye care provider and/or also prohibit optometrists from selling or dispensing contact lenses in their own offices. -AB 845
This bill is sponsored by VSP, which would allow the California Health Benefit Exchange to create a link to a webpage that would inform consumers of stand alone vision plans that are available to qualified individuals and employers. As you can see, there are many new bills that have the potential to impact our profession in both a positive and negative manner. I encourage you all to keep up-to- date with the issues at hand and join together to keep our profession strong and moving forward. If anyone is interested in further discussing these items with your colleagues and legislators, please join us at our annual Legislative Day in Sacramento on April 21st 2015.