Gov. Steve Beshear has signed legislation that will significantly increase the scope of care optometrists can provide, making it the first bill to become law in this session of the General Assembly.
“Access to quality health care is a critical issue for families across the commonwealth,” he said in a press release. “After careful consideration, along with meetings with many interested parties, today I signed Senate Bill 110 to give Kentuckians greater access to necessary eye care.”
The bill made an unusually speedy passage through the General Assembly after being filed Feb. 7. The Courier-Journal reported earlier this month optometrists have given a total of $400,000 in campaign contributions to legislators, the only exception being one who is a physician. Beshear’s re-election campaign has also received optometrists’ money.
The law will allow optometrists, who do not attend medical school, to perform more types of procedures, most notably one that uses a laser to fix complications that can arise from cataract surgery. Only optometrists in Oklahoma are likewise allowed to use lasers while treating their patients; in every other state, only opthalmologists can. The law also allows optometrists to prescribe certain drugs and lets the state Board of Optometric Examiners define what procedures optometrists can legally perform.
“In order to ensure the highest degree of oversight, I will be meeting with the Board of Optometric Examiners to make sure that providers of these services undergo extensive training,” Beshear said. “I believe this new law will mean more Kentuckians can get the eye care they need.” Optometrists practice in 106 counties in Kentucky. Two-thirds of the state’s counties do not have an ophtalmologist, and supporters of the bill sais it will make eye care more accessible and affordable in rural areas.