Among Tuesday night’s election fervor, as Americans in red or blue hats rode the ups and downs of the political tide, optometrists in Oklahoma were celebrating a vote of their own—not one of an elected representative, but rather a state ballot question strung together by retailers that could have changed eye care as Oklahomans know it.
The proposal, State Question 793, would have stripped the state’s board of the power to dictate what constitutes a comprehensive eye exam, say doctors from the state. Optometric and other medical groups opposing the move eked out a victory when voters rejected it by a mere 5,589 votes, according to newsok.com.
“An extremely close result, but in the end, the hard work by the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians, our doctors, and our friends and colleagues from across the nation delivered the result we were hoping for,” says Oklahoman Nathan Lighthizer, OD.
The proposal was backed by a committee that included Walmart, a retailer that has clashed with optometrists in the state before in unsuccessful attempts to bring optometric services into its stores. Oklahoma has a strict “two-door” policy that requires companies to entirely separate doctors from their stores.
In addition to overriding the state’s board, the text of the question reads that the measure “does not prohibit optometrists and opticians from agreeing with retail mercantile establishments to limit their practice.” This passage, Oklahoma optometrists feared, could establish a protocol by which patients receive refractive exams without undergoing a clinical exam. While Walmart denied that accusation, they did confirm that their doctors would not perform some of the surgical procedures that other optometrists in the state can provide under Oklahoma’s broad scope-of-practice laws.
“The citizens of Oklahoma said no to an out-of-state corporation trying to change our state constitution to benefit their business model,” explains Dr. Lighthizer. He attributes the victory to optometrists communicating their concerns directly with patients as well as the efforts of the OAOP.