05.06.2017

CT Legislators May Restrict Online Eye Exams

It's no secret that everything is becoming digitized nowadays. Believe it or not, some companies are even offering online eye exams. Although this virtual eye exam is an attractive option for many patients, legislators in Connecticut are not so sure it's a good idea for everybody.

The General Assembly's Public Health Committee just introduced a new bill targeting this very issue. Entitled "House Bill No. 6012: An Act Concerning Consumer Protection in Eye Care," the bill would make it impossible for ophthalmologists to use any information gathered online to either prescribe contact lenses or issue expiration dates for contact prescriptions.

Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, was involved in writing this proposed bill. He said this issue was brought to his attention by some of Connecticut's finest ophthalmologists and optometrists.

Contact lens prescriptions are specifically targeted in this bill because an improper contact fitting could lead to disastrous side effects. A trained optometrist needs to measure a person's eyes in person to ensure their contacts will allow enough oxygen to pass through. If the contacts don't fit properly, they could potentially wreak havoc on a person's cornea.

Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, also played a part in drafting this bill. Mr. Steinberg told reporters he is concerned about the accuracy of these online eye tests. Since these online tests haven't been around for all too long, Mr. Steinberg says he needs more data to prove these kinds of tests are accurate. Until then, he advises all consumers to take a cautious approach to digital eye exams.

Although prescriptions for eyeglasses were also targeted in the original bill, lawmakers scrapped this issue. Dr. Steven Thornquist, who is currently the president elect of the Connecticut State Medical Society, said the main safety concern with online eye exams is with contacts, not glasses. He said that a wrong pair of prescription eyeglasses may be inconvenient, but it poses no real threat to eye health.

One company that is opposing this bill is called Opternative. Opternative is headquartered in Chicago and offers online eye care tests for residents in 39 states. People using Opternative could either take their eye test on a computer of a smartphone.

Steven Lee, the co-founder of Opternative, said that his company's eye exams are extremely safe, accurate, and cost-effective. By introducing this new bill, Dr. Lee says Connecticut in unjustly barring consumers from using his company's services.

Lee testified before Connecticut's public health committee against "House Bill No. 6012." He said that his company currently charges only $40 per prescription for either eyeglasses or contacts. He then pointed out that an average in-person visit to an eye doctor is $200 for the first visit and then $128 afterwards.

While Connecticut State Representatives note the obvious benefits of this exam for people with low incomes, they are still concerned with the quality of these tests. Dr. Thornquist said the bill is more concerned with keeping people safe rather than restricting technological innovations.

As of today, there's no set date for voting on "House Bill No. 6012."


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