Arkansas: Optometric Scope Expansion, MOC Prohibition
While ASPS's efforts to defeat optometric scope expansion legislation have been successful in other states, Arkansas proved to be more difficult during the 2019 legislative session. Signs pointed to the legislature's willingness to entertain an expansion of optometrists scope of practice when a study committee was convened in 2018 to analyze legislation similar to the bill that was ultimately introduced this year.
House Bill 1251 was introduced in early 2019 and the bill moved quickly through the Arkansas House of Representatives. During the bill's advancement, ASPS and the Southeastern Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (SESPRS) sent cosigned letters at each step of the legislative process. ASPS also ran two grassroots campaigns urging Arkansas-based ASPS members to contact their state senator and Gov. Hutchinson to tell them to oppose the bill. All-in-all, ASPS and SESPRS sent eight letters to the legislature and governor.
While the legislation was initially defeated in the House Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee, the bill was brought back to life and gained momentum through a procedural maneuver. ASPS coordinated efforts with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and also restored its advocacy relationship with the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Unfortunately, Gov. Hutchinson signed this measure into law on March 27.
Unfortunately, optometric scope expansion was not the only issue before the state legislature this session. Senate Bill 339 would prohibit the Arkansas State Medical Board, healthcare facilities, and insurers from requiring maintenance of certification. ASPS does not believe that the government should make determinations about the use of maintenance of certification for credentialing by hospitals and insurance carriers. Instead, these decisions should be made by medical experts who have the insight and understanding on the role of recertification. ASPS believes the certification provided by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is the best validation of physician knowledge for the specialty, which is why the Society urging legislators to leave those licensure, credentialing, and reimbursement requirements to the regulatory boards, institutions, and entities that are making them, respectively. Unfortunately, S.B. 339 ultimately made it to the governor's desk and was signed into law on April 10.