Editor’s Note: As part of our “Year in Review” retrospective, we’ve selected the top 30 news stories of the year and are re-sharing them as we close out 2022. Follow along as we count down to number 1!

This story was originally published on December 15, 2022.

No. 19 biggest news story of 2022:

Proposed new regulations in the Eyeglass Release Rule aim to help uphold the law that patients must be given their prescription after an eye exam by requiring written confirmation. Photo: Wu Yi on Unsplash.

Since 1978, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has required optometrists and ophthalmologists to provide patients with a copy of their prescription following an eye examination, though compliance with the rule is mostly self-imposed. After receiving more than 800 public comments on the matter, the FTC has proposed changes to its Eyeglass Release Rule, which aims to reinforce the current law by requiring ODs and MDs to obtain a signed statement from the patient confirming that they have received their prescription. The changes would also require prescribers to preserve the confirmation statements on file for at least three years.

An article on the FTC’s proposed changes by Vision Monday points out that since it was put into law, “the FTC’s Eyeglass Rule helps facilitate consumer choice and promote competition in the eyeglass market by requiring prescribers to provide patients with a copy of their eyeglass prescription immediately after an eye exam that includes a refraction, even if the patient does not request it.”1 The rule also prevents doctors from requiring patients purchase glasses or contacts from them in order to receive a copy of their prescription and doesn’t allow prescribers to require that patients sign a waiver or pay a fee in exchange for their prescription. Nevertheless, based on the stack of consumer complaints, the Commission felt that changes to the Eyeglass Rule were necessary in order to help uphold these regulations.

The FTC is asking for comments from the public on the proposed changes to the rule, which come in response to the public complaints and aim to help uphold prescription regulations. The Commission recently approved the proposal to be published in the Federal Register with a vote of 4-0. Once the notice is published in January 2023, anyone who wishes will have two months to submit a comment to the FTC for consideration.

The Commission is requesting comments on the following proposed measures:

  • Prescribers must receive a signed confirmation from each patient stating they have received their eyeglass prescription, which must be kept on record for three years.
  • With patient consent, prescribers could opt to provide the prescription as a digital document instead of a paper copy.
  • A patient’s proof of insurance coverage would constitute a payment for the purpose of determining when a prescription must be provided.
  • The term “eye examination” would be changed to “refractive eye examination” throughout the Eyeglass Rule.

You can find the full notice for the proposed rules here.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) recently voiced its concern about the proposed changes in a letter addressed to colleagues and signed by AOA president Robert C. Layman, OD, and president-elect Ronald L. Benner, OD.2 The letter noted that “independent doctors and small- to mid-sized healthcare practices deliver essential care and make our communities healthier every day. Despite this, we too often see—and have to work to defeat—proposals in Washington, DC, to impose costly new burdens that threaten practices and quality care. Today’s FTC public announcement marks the beginning of the government’s once-per-decade update of regulations connected to eye health and vision care.”

Drs. Layman and Benner reassure ODs in their letter that with continued support from federal health agencies and advocates on Capitol Hill, the AOA feels confident that optometrists will continue to be listened to and heard. They urge that there is a need for the Commission to “hear more from our profession about our compliance with prescription release requirements.”

Consider submitting a comment to the FTC (electronically or in writing) when the proposed changes are published in the new year to voice your opinion on the matter. You can also e-mail the AOA at president@aoa.org to join its advocacy movement.

1. FTC proposes changes to rx eyeglass release rule, including getting signed confirmations from patients and other measures, as AOA voices its concerns. Vision Monday. Published December 13, 2022. www.visionmonday.com/eyecare/article/ftc-proposes-changes-to-rx-eyeglass-release-rule-including-getting-signed-confirmations-from-patients-and-other-measures-as-aoa-voices-its-concerns/?uid=31BD62136C131310AB8C47C61599D876. Accessed December 13, 2022.

2. FTC eyeglass rule: AOA comments. Invision Mag. Published December 12, 2022. invisionmag.com/ftc-eyeglass-rule-aoa-comments. Accessed December 13, 2022.