On the ballot this November in Oklahoma is a constitutional amendment prohibiting any laws that would “restrain, abridge or infringe on the ability of optometrists or opticians to practice their respective professions within a retail mercantile establishment.”
Interestingly, one of the main sticking points for opponents of the legislation is a provision that, according to Barbara Hoberock of Tulsa World:
would allow the big-box stores to limit the scope of practice, and critics say that would allow the stores to merely offer basic eye-care services to determine a prescription for glasses or contacts, which the customer could fill at the Walmart location.
The provision in question states that nothing in the Oklahoma Constitution or the measure “shall be construed as prohibiting optometrists or opticians from agreeing with a retail mercantile establishment to limit the scope of their practice.”
So, while this critique of the law is valid, it’s purely speculative. There is, after all, nothing mandating a restriction of scope of practice.
The vice president for U.S. Optical at Walmart, Mony Iyer, allayed these concerns by stating that “they can practice to the extent that they see fit there,” Iyer said. “So, Walmart does not dictate. Walmart does not limit. Walmart does not do anything to limit their scope of practice.”
Iyer said the logic behind this specific provision was to prevent optometrists from offering Lasik (Oklahoma is the only state that allows optometrists to perform such a procedure) surgery in Walmart stores as a “patent protection.”
Seeing as optometrists would still be free to set up shop on their own (or somewhere other than Walmart), these objections are a red herring that hopefully won’t undermine the push for a measure that would expand patient access to eye care.