Price of Passage High for Optometrist Bill

The Assembly Committee on Appropriations last week passed a bill that originally would have expanded the scope of practice for optometrists in a number of ways. It was designed to help ease the primary care provider crunch in California.

Getting the bill out of committee, however, meant stripping it down to be almost unrecognizable.

The amended language of the bill likely will be released today; an advance copy of the legislation was sent yesterday to Capitol Desk by the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

SB 492 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) originally authorized a licensed optometrist to perform health services such as “examining, preventing, diagnosing and treating any disease, condition or disorder of the visual system, the human eye and adjacent and related structures, prescribing appropriate drugs, including narcotics, and administering immunizations.”

In the original version of the bill, optometrists’ work would have expanded to include treatment of anything related to the eye, including some laser surgeries, prescription of narcotics and administration of immunizations.

The immunizations part of the bill remained with some restrictions.

Optometrists now, after additional training, can earn a certificate that allows them to administer two immunizations — for flu and shingles (Herpes zoster). Training to get that certificate was increased to a CDC-endorsed program. Also, a fee was added to support the regulation by the state Board of Optometry.

Hernandez declined to comment on passage of the bill.

It now heads for an Assembly floor vote this week or next. The last day to pass bills is Aug. 29.

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