Local News Politics

Ophthalmologists Say Optometry Law Will Hurt Care, Optometrists Say It May Not Affect Louisville

Governor Steve Beshear Thursday signed a law expanding the procedures optometrists are allowed to perform. But  the new law may not change many practices in Louisville and other cities.

The law allows optometrists to perform certain procedures—such as laser surgery—that are currently only done by ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors. Optometrists must be certified to do the procedures and they need to purchase the proper equipment.

Kentucky Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons Woodford Van Meter says that’s not enough.

“The analogy is this: Would you like to get on an airplane with an experienced pilot, or would you like to get on an airplane with an inexperienced pilot who just has a certificate that he has recently received,” he says.

Optometrist Richard Gersh of Louisville says the law is aimed mostly at rural areas where ophthalmologists are scarce.

“I’m not going to do laser [surgery] here. In order to do laser, you have to have enough patients to pay for the laser and most optometric practices don’t have that many patients that it would justify getting one. I will continue to refer to my ophthalmologists at this point.”

Ophthalmologists oppose the law. They say even if optometrists are certified to do certain procedures, they still won’t have the proper medical training. In addition, they’re concerned the law will put a strain on Medicaid, as optometrists begin filing more claims for procedures.

Local News Politics

Holsclaw’s Challenge of Optometry Bill Passage May Not Lead To Charges

Jefferson County Clerk and gubernatorial candidate Bobbie Holsclaw’s calls for an investigation into an optometry bill that passed the General Assembly may not yield significant results.

Holsclaw has asked the state Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney to look into the bill’s speedy passage. It cleared the legislature in two weeks and is one of the only measures to pass both chambers this session.

University of Louisville political science professor Dewey Clayton says while the rapid progress on the bill is odd, it’s not clear whether there has been any wrongdoing.

“I’m not sure what the charges would be,” he says. “There are rules for lobbying. I don’t think anyone has actually said any of those rules were broken. So it could be the process of looking into this and seeing if any of the lobbying rules were broken.”

Optometrists have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying and supporting candidates. The bill allows them to perform certain surgeries currently only done by ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors. Holsclaw herself says she doesn’t have evidence any laws were broken.

“She’s running for governor. This may actually help get her name out there as someone who clearly is concerned about the possible influence that money can have in the political process,” says Clayton.

Local News Politics

Holsclaw to Ask for Investigation of Optometry Bill

Republican gubernatorial candidate and Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw is calling for an investigation into one of the few bills to pass both chambers of the General Assembly this year.

Holsclaw is targeting legislation that allows optometrists to perform some procedures currently only performed by ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors. She says the speed in which the bill passed the legislature raises concerns. She’s not alleging any wrongdoing, but she does plan to ask state and federal officials to investigate the measure and how it passed.

Optometrists spent about $250,000 on campaign contributions to state lawmakers in the last year.

Local News Politics

Optometry Bill On Its Way To Beshear

It wasn’t introduced until February. Neither House and Senate leaders nor the governor ever mentioned it as a priority. But a bill allowing optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures currently only done by ophthalmologists—who are medical doctors—is on its way to Governor Steve Beshear for his signature.

It passed the House 81-14, over the objections of Representative Bob DeWeese, who’s a medical doctor.

“Ophthalmologists have been to medical school. They’ve spent five years in surgical training of the eye. And I just wanted to point that out to the body. There is a difference,” he says.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo is defending the legislation. Stumbo admits the bill was heavily lobbied by optometrists, but does not believe it poses any health dangers.

“We all certainly hope that none of the fears do play out. But again, the experience of the other state that has this type of legislation – Oklahoma – it’s been in effect over a decade. That’s not been the case in Oklahoma,” he says.

Aside from DeWeese, the other medical doctor in the House, Representative David Watkins, also opposed the bill.