Consumers could have their eye care choices limited, if a bill introduced last night by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) becomes law. The medical doctor turned politician, Cassidy, is likely to introduce a bill, at the behest of eye doctors, that will allow the blocking of sales and shipping of contact lenses to patients if an eye doctor says the prescription in invalid or inaccurate. Consumers will be unable to purchase their contact lenses after such a declaration regarding the prescription by an eye doctor.
The legislation would place restrictions on contact lens sellers in a number of areas that would limit how they can receive and communicate with doctors on the prescriptions for patients. These restrictions will simply serve to limit customer choices in the purchasing of contact lenses. Supporters of the bill claim it will address issues regarding prescription verification and alleged deceptive sales tactics by internet-based sellers of contact lenses.
One of the restrictions requires that contact lens sellers furnish eye doctors with a “working toll-free number” and an e-mail address for communication. In reality, the problem is usually one of prescribing eye doctors not getting back to the sellers regarding prescriptions. Another restriction in the bill prohibits some types of calls to eye doctors to verify prescriptions, which puts the power in the hands of the doctor to mandate how a seller will communicate with the prescriber. The bill also empower the Federal Trade Commission to harass companies that sell contact lens products. All of these restrictions will only cause limits in consumer choices for contact lens purchases.
Cassidy’s bill was filed last night, and it titled, “S.2777 – A bill to modernize the prescription verification process for contact lenses, to clarify consumer protections regarding false advertising of contact lenses, and for other purposes.” By placing such restrictions on the sellers of contact lenses, the bill will eliminate market competition and help sales of contact lenses by eye doctors. Once again, this is a big government attempt to fix something that is not broken.
Consumers have broad rights to shop for and purchase their own contact lenses with a prescription under the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA), which also places responsibilities on lens prescribers and sellers similar to the rights and responsibilities regarding eyeglasses. FCLCA is also designed to promote retail competition and afford more choices for consumers in contact lenses.
This bill will “protect” consumers from their own choices in contact lens purchases where no such protection is needed. Educated consumers can make their own decisions on who and where to buy contact lenses from, both online and otherwise. Washington politicians have far more important issues to address rather than seeking to serve the narrow interests of eye doctors who want to sell more contact lenses themselves, over the public interest and protecting the rights of consumers. Perhaps if politicians like Bill Cassidy heard more from the voters that elected them, they might work more in the public interest than in that of the special interests.