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Legislative Update

Insight 4th quarter 2019
Legislative Report

At the time of this writing, it is my father’s birthday. For the record, my father, Wayne Lucion Lawson, officially turned 86 years old today. (Keep going WAYNE!) He and I spoke in celebration of his birthday and how over the span of his lifetime optometry as a profession has changed dramatically. (More facts will be presented on that subject later in my report.) We also spoke of how Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are rapidly approaching – heralding the fact that 2019 is almost gone. But what does all of that mean to you... it means the upcoming Florida legislative session is just around the corner, formally convening in January of 2020. In fact, pre-session committee hearings are already underway in Florida, paving the path for next year’s legislative session. As such, FOA has once again been highly engaged on your behalf in the political process of preparing for the upcoming 2020 legislative session.

Here are a couple of highlights FOA is addressing at the federal and state level:

National Level:

1. AOA has achieved inclusion of vision coverage in the proposed expansion of the Medicare program to become "Medicare for All." According to Physicians for National Health Plan Coverage, this program would:

"Cover all medically necessary care, including hospitalization and doctor visits; dental, vision and hearing care; mental health services; reproductive care, long-term care services and supports; ambulatory services; and prescription drugs. Covers all U.S. residents. Coverage is portable and lifelong. The program implements over a two-year transition period. In the first year, current Medicare enrollees can utilize expanded benefits such as dental and vision care. After year one, the plan automatically enrolls everyone ages 0-18 and 55 and older, and offers a Medicare transition buy-in plan through the federal and state exchanges during this time. Allocates one percent of budget for the first five years to assistance for workers displaced by the elimination of private health insurance."

2. AOA/FOA are working to protect our patients by requesting legislation to prohibit the use of robocalls to extend contact lens prescriptions.

State Level

1. FOA is monitoring the implementation of telehealth to ensure safe access to eye healthcare for our patients. Implementation will continue to evolve over the next few years including the evolution of insurance reimbursement for telehealth services. FOA will continue to advocate against entities that attempt to place profitability over patient care, so please stay engaged with us in this worthy task.

2. FOA is monitoring HB 309/ SB 500. This bill would make it illegal for an optometrist licensed under Florida chapter 463 to use the term "physician" in conjunction with their name. Please read the redacted bill text below:

HB 309/ SB 500 (redacted)

A bill to be entitled an act relating to prohibited acts by health care practitioners; amending s. 456.072, F.S.; authorizing disciplinary action to be enforced by the Department of Health for the use of specified names or titles without a valid license or certification to practice as such; providing a definition; providing an effective date. Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: Section 1. Paragraph (pp) is added to subsection (1) of 13 section 456.072, Florida Statutes, to read: 14 456.072 Grounds for discipline; penalties; enforcement.— 15 (1) The following acts shall constitute grounds for which 16 the disciplinary actions specified in subsection (2) may be 17 taken: 18 (pp)1. Knowingly using the name or title “physician,” “surgeon,” “medical doctor,” “doctor of osteopathy,” “M.D.,” 20 “anesthesiologist,” “cardiologist,” “dermatologist,” “endocrinologist,” “gastroenterologist,” “general practitioner,” “gynecologist,” “hematologist,” “hospitalist,” “internist,” “interventional pain medicine physician,” “laryngologist,” “nephrologist,” “neurologist,” “obstetrician,” “oncologist,” “ophthalmologist,” “orthopedic surgeon,” “orthopedist,” “osteopath,” “otologist,” “otolaryngologist,” “otorhinolaryngologist,” “pathologist,” “pediatrician,” “podiatrist,” “primary care physician,” “proctologist,” “psychiatrist,” “radiologist,” “rheumatologist,” “rhinologist.” 

Florida Senate - 2020 SB 500 ....... insignia indicating or implying that he or she is authorized by chapter 458, chapter 459, or chapter 461 to practice as such. If the department finds any person guilty of the grounds set forth in this paragraph, it may enter an order imposing one or more of the penalties provided in subsection (2). ............This act shall take effect upon becoming a law. 


Back to how optometry has changed over my father’s lifetime… I would like to share with you an excerpt from an article published on October 15, 2018 in Review of Optometry titled “Expanding Scope of Practice: Lessons and Leverage - With 20 years of success to tout, the tactics —and the results—are changing,” by Bill Kekevian, Senior Editor—

One Giant Leap

It took nearly 30 years after the failure of Albert Fitch’s historic 1937 attempt at optometric expansion before the modern era of optometry finally began. On January 16, 1968, A. Norman Haffner, OD, finally put his foot down and settled a debate that had been essentially splitting the profession down the middle for decades. 

His words at a meeting of optometric leaders that day—“The optometrist is a primary care provider and the optometrist has a role in the diagnosis and treatment of ocular pathology”—seems a simple statement of fact today, but at the time, it was radical. The previous self-definition of a “drugless profession” was out.1 

Within three years, Rhode Island would pass the first diagnostic drug bill and optometry was off to the races. Therapeutic drops followed a similar path, with the first bill passed in West Virginia in 1976. Before this run, a mere conjunctivitis patient had to choose between trying to book an eye surgeon for treatment or relying on a family practitioner who wouldn’t have particular training in eye care. The primary care role specifically for eyes—the biological structure that most informs humans’ perception of the world and most influences quality of life—simply didn’t exist.

As optometry enters its next phase, its advocates will have to look to this history to guide how to best serve patients in need.

1. Eger M. The Airlie House Conference. Journal of the American Optometric Association. 1969:40(4):429-31.


I hope you have taken the time to read this material and reflect upon the education it provides in defining the process by which you are able to provide care to the patients you serve today and potentially tomorrow. As always, I sincerely thank those of you who tirelessly serve to assist FOA in the defense and forward progression of the noble profession of Florida optometry. Please continue to help us gather new FOA and OD-EYEPAC members. Without you, none of our work is possible. In terms of our profession and visual acuity, 20/20 is considered to be the "gold" standard. Let’s work together to make 2020 a gold standard year as well.



Kenneth W. Lawson, OD

FOA Legislative Chair




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