STATE | ASPS Opposes Optometrist Scope Expansion Efforts
ASPS is diligently working to ensure that only providers who are trained to perform surgery are actually permitted to do so. Optometrists across the country are working to expand their scopes of practice well-beyond their training. In many states, they are attempting to reform their scopes of practice to gain the ability to perform minor surgeries.
In Alaska, as in many states, optometrists have tried to sell their scope of practice expansion effort as an access to care issue. While it is true that many Alaskans and residents of other rural states lack access to healthcare services, optometrists in Alaska are seeking to expand their scope to permit them to perform "minor surgery". Even more alarmingly, the optometry board will be empowered to define what "minor surgery" is. While expanding mid-level provider scope of practice seems like an attractive option to increase access to care, extensive studies conducted by the AMA have shown that it actually does not yield those results. Further, passing this legislation would endanger patients by permitting optometrists with no surgical training to perform surgery. ASPS also worked with partners in organized medicine to oppose similar efforts by optometrists last session and was successful.
In Iowa last session, ASPS, the Iowa Society of Plastic Surgeons and other advocates in organized medicine defeated a bill that would have expanded optometrists' scope to perform injections and to broaden their ability to conduct disease management that impacts eyesight (i.e., diabetes and hypertension). ASPS is again working with the Iowa Society of Plastic Surgeons this session to vigorously oppose this legislative measure.
The Maryland legislature is also considering legislation that would permit optometrists to perform some surgical procedures. Alarmingly, the bill does not require that optometrists receive any surgical training before doing so. ASPS is working with the Maryland Society of Plastic Surgeons to oppose this measure that would also permit optometrists to use a wide range of pharmaceuticals, including highly addictive narcotics.
ASPS is committed to opposing optometrist scope expansion bills, especially in cases where optometrists are seeking to perform surgery. State legislatures should not permit optometrists to practice outside their professional training by permitting them to perform surgery, prescribe highly addictive drugs, or manage complicated diseases that impact much more than just the visual system. Doing so endangers patients in their states and is bad public policy.