New legislation in Texas and Rhode Island relieve the restrictions placed on optometrists to participate in medical plans in those states.

The new law in Texas fixes the insurance code to prevent medical insurers in Texas from requiring that optometrists accept the terms and conditions of any specific vision plan in order to join or remain on the company’s medical plans.

It allows optometrists to make independent decisions about the relative merits of signing up with medical plans and vision plans.

This law also prevents insurance companies from attempting to devise coercive methods to control optometrists through unscrupulous contracts. The amendment goes into effect on January 1, 2012, and applies to all new contracts after that date.

A similar bill in Rhode Island was also recently signed into law. The legislation, backed by the Rhode Island Optometric Association, prohibits the requirement that optometrists enroll in a discount vision care plan in order to treat medical conditions.

Before passage, the Rhode Island bill was vetoed by the governor when it reached his desk. Grassroots efforts by the RIOA encouraged the legislature to overturn the governor’s veto.

“It’s a huge win for our patients and the profession,” says Stephen Montaquila, O.D., chair of both the AOA’s Third Party Executive Committee and the RIOA’s Legislative Committee.