Professional oculist choosing lens for eyeglasses for her little patient

We all want the best when it comes to medical care, and eye health in particular affects our lives every second. It can also have a significant impact on our wallets with expensive eye exams and corrective lenses.

Those considerations come to the ballot Nov. 6 with State Question 793. If passed, this measure would allow optometrists to practice in retail establishments, a scenario now restricted by the state Constitution.

“Our current laws protect patients and prevent corporations like Walmart from degrading the high level of care we provide in our state.”

Supporters of the measure describe themselves as “retailers, patients and free-market advocates,” according to the non website. One of their primary arguments is the access to affordable eye care for families.

Tim Tippit, chairman and president of Yes on SQ 793 and chief financial officer of optical retailer DaVinci Equity Group, says passage of SQ 793 “will create a more robust eye-care industry that will expand the accessibility and affordability for patients.” He argues that competition will drive prices down, and getting an eye exam and purchasing eyewear in one location will make eye care convenient and accessible.

Opponents of SQ 793 say current laws in Oklahoma attract optometrists from all over the country. Many optometrists and the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians are against the measure.

The state is “home to hundreds of optometric physicians with offices in almost all of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, meaning patients rarely must travel long distances for world-class care,” says Joel Robison, the optometrist association’s executive director, adding that this will all change with the passage of SQ 793.

Blane Snodgrass, a Tulsa optometrist, agrees.

“The passage of SQ 793 will have a very negative impact on the practice of optometry in Oklahoma,” he says. “Our current laws protect patients and prevent corporations like Walmart from degrading the high level of care we provide in our state.”

Robison adds, “We can expect quality of care to deteriorate, as Oklahoma will no longer be a destination state for optometric physicians excited about the state’s commitment to putting patients first.”

Brian Padgham of Guthrie Vision Source says he and other doctors of optometry do more than provide glasses and contact lenses; they are part of a health-care team.

“However, if SQ 793 passes, I’m sure to find it difficult to compete with corporate optometry and their model of business,” he says.

Proponents of the measure disagree. Tippit says eye-care standards will remain high because optometrists will offer the same level of care required by the state through licenses and certifications.

“Passing SQ 793 will [also] allow our state’s most vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, low-income individuals and children, to have better access to vision care,” he says.

Make sure you’re part of the process by voting. To find your polling place, visit services.okelections.us.

 

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