|Second time’s the charm? California reintroduces proposed legislation that would give the state’s ODs the right to pursue capsulotomy, SLT and LPI. Click image to enlarge.|
At the tail end of last year, Governor Newsom of California made the decision to veto optometric scope expansion bill AB 2236 despite its favorable vote in the Senate two months prior. His rationale: the bill would have allowed ODs to perform several advanced procedures—including some laser and incisional surgeries—with insufficient training compared with ophthalmologists. Supporters have been vocal in pushing back against this claim.
Undeterred by the 11th-hour loss, advocates for scope expansion continue to propel efforts forward in California, recently introducing an identical new laser bill into this year’s legislative session. Again sponsored by Assemblymember Evan Low, AB 1570 will first be heard by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee likely next month on April 18.
“Each year that passes makes this bill more relevant,” says Candi Kimura, OD, president of the California Optometric Association (COA), which has worked alongside lawmakers for several years to help pass scope expansion legislation. “As our population ages, more patients need these services, especially in rural and medically underserved areas,” she urges.
The scope bill, which has not been amended at all since its run last year, would allow the nearly 7,000 optometrists practicing in California to perform the following procedures (under the specific circumstances it outlines):
- Three types of laser procedures: two appropriate for the treatment of glaucoma (i.e., selective laser trabeculoplasty and peripheral iridotomy) and posterior capsulotomy to remedy lens opacification following cataract surgery.
- Lesion removal, including skin tags, cysts and other non-cancerous growths.
- Injections to treat various eye conditions (subcutaneous, intramuscular, subconjunctival and intralesional).
- Corneal collagen crosslinking in keratoconus.
California is home to the largest number of practicing ODs in the country. With the passage of this bill—and the governor’s signature—not only would doctors benefit from being able to use their education and training in practice but patients across the Golden State may also achieve improved health and vision outcomes because of more timely access to eyecare treatment and procedures.
“This bill is good for patients,” reiterates Dr. Kimura. “Expanded access to care allows for fewer office visits, shorter wait times and shorter travel times.”
If AB 1570 receives a favorable vote by the committee, it will then be heard by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, followed by the full Assembly. To learn more about how you can support the bill as an optometrist or advocate, please contact the COA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
California’s latest push for scope expansion will be one of the most high-profile efforts in a busy year for optometric advocacy that also has similar bills currently being vetted in Nebraska, South Dakota, Idaho and Washington state, with more planned elsewhere across the country.