Optometrists may get a temporary reprieve in gearing up for the requirements introduced by the Final Contact Lens Rule. The House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations recently requested that the FTC delay the effective date for the Rule until March 31, 2021.

In a report and accompanying bill, the committee states it is “disappointed that the FTC’s final amendments to the Contact Lens Rule do not sufficiently address the patient safety concerns the Committee has repeatedly outlined in report language for the past four years. The Rule fails to sufficiently modernize the prescription verification process by eliminating the use of robocalls and imposes new burdensome paperwork requirements on providers and patients.”

The delay by Congress is sensible and welcome, says Brian Chou, OD, of San Diego. “It gives ODs reasonable time to prepare when most are navigating business challenges due to COVID-19, including staffing disruptions. In addition, EHRs were caught flat-footed without forewarning to develop functionality and patient portals to help ODs comply with the FTC’s requirements.”

Updated EHRs are sorely needed to minimize new administrative burdens, Dr. Chou explains. “It takes time for software development and to push out new builds. Even March 31, 2021, is probably too soon to expect most EHRs to have robust functionality patterning the newly imposed workflows,” Dr. Chou says.

“Congress’ order is a step in the right direction, but it does not change the fact that the new Contact Lens Rule, as promulgated by the FTC, reflects bad public policy, which is also reflected in Congress’ statement,” says Clarke Newman, OD, of Dallas. “It is an example of regulatory overreach and does nothing to address the pressing health concerns created by seller abuses of the Act and the Rule. Congress is clearly not happy with this Rule, and the public should share Congress’ dissatisfaction.”

Under the Final Rule, prescribers will be required to do one of the following to confirm a patient received their prescription following a contact lens fitting:

  • Ask the patient to acknowledge the receipt of the contact lens prescription by signing a separate confirmation statement.
  • Ask the patient to sign a prescriber-retained copy of the prescription that contains a statement confirming the patient received it.

The prescriber can request the patient sign a prescriber-retained copy of the sales receipt for the exam that contains a statement confirming the patient received the prescription. The prescriber can also give the patient a digital copy of the prescription and retain evidence it was sent, received, or made accessible, downloadable and printable.

Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill, 2021. US House of Representatives. appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/FSGG%20Report%20Full%20Print.PDF. Published 2021. Accessed January 19, 2021.