Optometrists and Ophthalmologists Not Seeing Eye to Eye Over Proposed Law Allowing Prescribing

IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

This year Florida House Bill 239 and Florida Senate Bill 278 has been reignited in the Florida Legislature. This legislation is pitting optometrists and ophthalmologists against each other in what is being called the “eyeball wars,” according to the Fort Myers News-Press. These bills would expand the authority of optometrists to prescribe certain medications and treat some eye conditions. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are both trying to gain support for their respective viewpoints.

Click here to read the article from Fort Myers News-Press.

Florida House Bill 239 and Florida Senate Bill 278.

Most notably, the bills would expand the scope of practice for optometrists. Optometrists would have prescribing authority of oral medications. However, they would not have the ability to prescribe Schedule I and II narcotics. Optometrists would also be allowed to perform clinical laboratory studies.

Click here to read Florida House Bill 239, and click here to read Florida Senate Bill 278.

Supporters Believe This Law Would Reduce Health Care Costs and Increase Access to Eye Care.

The backers of expanding prescribing authority to optometrists say it will help reduce health care costs and make treatment more available to communities short on ophthalmologists. According to a statement by the Florida Optometric Association, expanding the ability for optometrists to prescribe oral medications saves money, increases access to eye care, and saves people from losing vision due to treatment delays. According to the Fort Myers News-Press, this authority has been granted to optometrists in 48 states.

Ophthalmologists Say Patients’ Safety is at Stake.

According to the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, allowing an expansion of prescribing authority is a dangerous move for patients. A letter from the American Academy of Ophthalmology states that the language in the legislature is vague, broad and misleading. It also states that the training ophthalmologists receive provides them with not only technical skills, but instills the judgment one needs to determine when (and when not) to prescribe specific medications. To read the entire letter, click here.

Other associations opposed to the bill include Florida Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, Florida Society of Rheumatology, Florida Society of Anesthesiologists, Hillsborough County Medical Association. Letters written by each of these societies can be read by clicking here.

Progression of the Bill. 

Florida House Bill 239 was passed by the House Health and Human Services Committee on March 7, 2013, and is now ready for the House Floor. On March 6, 2013, a Florida Senate panel voted 10-3 to approve Senate Bill 278. The bill has now been handed over to the Appropriation Committee.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Optometrists and Ophthalmologists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to optometrists, ophthalmologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


What do you think of optometrists being able to prescribe oral medication? Are you for or against this legislature? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Gluck, Frank. “Not Seeing Eye to Eye: Optometrists, Ophthalmologists Differ on Bills.” Fort Myers News-Press. (March 7, 2013). From: http://www.news-press.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303070027&nclick_check=1

Corcoran, Richard. Letter Opposing HB 239 and SB 278. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (February 4, 2013). From: http://www.mdeye.org/pdfs/AAOHB239OppositionLetter.pdf

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.


“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

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