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Panel OKs Optometry Scope of Practice Bill

An Assembly committee yesterday voted to grant greater authority to optometrists in California. Allowing optometrists to expand their scope of practice could help with the heightened pressure on primary care providers, said John Rosten, president of the California Optometric Association.

“Basically it’s part of the whole scheme of providing better health care in California,” Rosten said. “It’s more of a public health issue and it’s a matter of being more a part of the health care scene.”

Debate over SB 492 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) took up the bulk of yesterday’s hearing of the Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protection. At issue in the bill is the type of procedures and the training requirements for those procedures — in particular, laser treatments for glaucoma.

The legislation was one of three scope-of-practice expansion bills introduced last session by Hernandez. One passed, one failed and this one was turned into a two-year bill so it could be heard during this session. The need is great for easing the shortage of primary care providers, Hernandez said.

“This is the first group of professions that could be bigger impacts,” Hernandez said. “We’re going to have a capacity issue because of the shortage of primary care providers. We’re going to have a serious problem.”

“The question came down to the amount of clinical training for these specific procedures in the bill,” said Joe Lang, legislative advocate for the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons. “The procedures are broad. …

The bill does not limit them to non-plastic surgery techniques.”

That was the issue raised by Tim Madden, legislative advocate for the California Academy of Plastic Surgeons.

“Our concern is around opening the door for optometrists to perform cosmetic procedures,” Madden said.

The bill passed on an 8-1 vote and now heads to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

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