We did it! With the help of consumer rights advocates and patients, U.S. Senate bill S.4613 was crushed! On November 18, 2020, the bill was scheduled for mark-up in the Senate Commerce Committee. However, it was so controversial that it was pulled from the agenda.
Hundreds of consumers from across the U.S. emailed, called, and sent messages expressing their opposition to this bill. Also, a bipartisan coalition of organizations and advocacy groups representing taxpayers, consumers, and millions of contact lens wearers joined the fight.
By adding only 15 words to the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA), this bill would have ended a patient’s guarantee they receive a copy of their prescription. And it would strip the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of their enforcement powers completely. Without enforcement, optometrists would be free to continue to ignore the law as they have for the past 17 years.
While it’s important to celebrate this win, we must remain vigilant.
The optometry industry has relentlessly sought to restore its grip on American consumers after patients won the right to shop around in 2003 with the passage of the FCLCA. This act required optometrists to provide, unprompted, a copy of the contact lens prescription to the patient at the end of the contact lens fitting.
In a recent study, the FTC found that as few as 50 percent of eye doctors provided a copy of the prescription as required. This can be attributed to optometrists’ inherent conflict of interest: they also sell contact lenses. Eye doctors profit from keeping patients handcuffed to their practice.
There’s still a chance this bill might sneak its way back if included in the Commerce Committee’s year-end appropriations packages. We’ll continue to keep a watchful eye and provide updates.