FTC Staff Urges Washington Legislature to Consider Effects of Proposed Eye Care Measure on Competition and Consumers

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Federal Trade Commission staff submitted a comment to the Washington State Legislature concerning proposed legislation that would, among other things, restrict the use of telehealth eye care in which a practitioner distant from a patient uses data received by telecommunications as the basis for a prescription for corrective lenses. The proposed legislation would require ophthalmologists and optometrists to conduct complete and comprehensive in-person eye exams prior to providing corrective vision prescriptions.

In response to a request by Washington State Representative Paul Graves seeking FTC staff comments on the likely impact Substitute Senate Bill 5411/H.B. 1473 will have on Washington state consumers and the market in general, staff of the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning and its Bureaus of Economics and Competition stated that the Bill, if adopted, may reduce competition, access, and consumer choice in eye care services, and might also raise costs for consumers.

The comment explained that the proposed measure “would restrict the use of telehealth eye care by qualified vision care providers, which would deny consumers the benefits of innovative eye care telehealth technologies.” Also, the Bill “might require unnecessary services by mandating a comprehensive examination before prescribing corrective lenses, regardless of the patient’s visual health status, examination history, or other circumstances.”

The comment encourages the legislature to “consider the potential effects of the Bill on competition in the provision of eye care, and to avoid restrictions that override the judgment of practitioners and are not narrowly tailored to address well-founded patient safety concerns.”

The Commission vote to issue the staff comment was 2-0. It was sent to Washington State Representative Paul Graves on February 9, 2018. (FTC File No. V180006; the staff contact is Karen A. Goldman, Office of Policy Planning, 202-326-2574).

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