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.