OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

It’s Time Everyone Is Accountable in Vision Care

Most people’s biggest health fear is losing their vision. From babies to seniors, people rely on their vision for reading, driving, sports, work — nearly everything they do during waking hours. Our eyes have to last us a lifetime. When I see a patient who can’t see as well as normal or has pain or vision loss, I understand their anxiety. It becomes my responsibility to provide them with the best care to protect, preserve and enhance their vision.

What I can’t understand are companies who don’t hold themselves to the same accountability, potentially causing patients more harm than good.

When I prescribe contact lenses — FDA-regulated medical devices — I work meticulously with my patients to assess their vision and eye health to prescribe the correct contact lens that will meet their visual needs, be comfortable and maintain their health. My patients and I expect that whoever fills that prescription takes the same care to assure it is filled accurately. Unfortunately, some retailers do not hold themselves to the same standards.

They undermine care by selling contact lenses without prescriptions or even shipping contact lenses of an incorrect prescription. And regrettably, patients suffer for it. Nearly every reported case of adverse events due to the improper use of contact lenses was the result of lenses bought without a valid and current prescription.

At a time when we are laser-focused on patient-centered care, bills that protect patient health are crucial.

Patient well-being is at the heart of the Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act (S. 2777), introduced by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and John Boozman (R-AR). The bill, which is supported by the American Optometric Association, along with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, AdvaMed – Advanced Medical Technology Association, American Association of Diabetes Educators, Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry, Coalition for Patient Vision Care Safety and the Contact Lens Institute, simply seeks more effective federal enforcement of contact lens patient health and prescription verification safeguards by holding contact lens sellers accountable for their sales methods, especially those that can cause harm and result in added health care costs.

Just last week, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed suit against 1-800 Contacts, the largest online retailer of contact lenses in the United States, asserting that the company has misled consumers and caused higher prices. Although a crackdown on illegal online sales tactics is certainly needed, it’s essential to also ensure that our laws are strong and up to date enough to protect patients from other, more harmful abuses that could place their health and, potentially, their vision at risk.

The bill strengthens the 2003 Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act to ensure retailers dispense prescriptions exactly as written and communicate effectively with prescribers like me about the accuracy of patients’ prescriptions and address any issues. These requirements are common sense actions to maintain the quality continuum of care our patients expect, yet have been regularly ignored and abused by some sellers.

As misinformation about this bill is spread, it is critical to understand the facts:  

  • The proposed guardrails put the patient first. S. 2777 establishes a live patient safety hotline that allows doctors to provide sellers with patient health information and ensures the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. It also guarantees contact lenses are dispensed exactly as the prescription is written by the doctor.  
  • Some retailers use underhanded tactics. Internet retailers use loopholes that allow them to avoid verification and sometimes ship the wrong contact lenses. By banning use of disruptive, automated “robo calls” for verifying patient prescription information and enabling doctors to choose live phone calls or emails from sellers, they can preserve the continuum of care and deliver vital patient information.  
  • We provide our patients with copies of their prescriptions in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s Contact Lens Rule so that patients can choose where they purchase their contact lenses.
  • There are serious potential negative consequences for patients. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are nearly 1 million emergency room and urgent doctor visits and about $175 million in added annual health care costs arising from keratitis, an infection linked to improper contact lens wear.

The AOA and the broader Coalition applaud Sens. Cassidy and Boozman for their support of the Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act and for making patient safety and quality of care a priority.

As an eye doctor, I am accountable for the care I provide my patients. This bill is simply making the retailers who provide contact lenses for patients just as accountable.

Andrea P. Thau, OD, is president of the American Optometric Association.

Briefings

Health Brief: GOP Senators Ask CBO to Fast-Track ACA Overhaul Review

Senate Republican leaders have asked the Congressional Budget Office to fast-track consideration of a plan from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to overhaul the Affordable Care Act. The CBO is reportedly in the process of analyzing the cost and coverage impact of the plan, as Republicans face pressure to make one last attempt at undoing the ACA before GOP senators’ ability to pass legislation with a simple majority expires on Sept. 30.

Health Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) hopes to reach a deal with Democrats on a plan to shore up the ACA exchanges early this week. A final agreement, if reached, is likely to extend key insurer payments, known as cost-sharing reductions, and include reforms to make it easier for states to establish reinsurance programs. Some Republicans are also pushing to give states more flexibility over required benefits in Obamacare plans, a proposal that is controversial with Democrats.

Health Brief: Some Moderate House Democrats Seek ACA Stabilization

While progressives this week rallied behind Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) single-payer health care bill, a group of moderate House Democrats in the New Democrat Coalition aligned themselves with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s bipartisan push to stabilize the Affordable Care Act exchanges, which Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) aims to reach a final deal on by early next week.

Health Brief: Deal Reached to Extend CHIP Funding

Senate Finance Committee leaders reached a deal on a five-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, in a win for children’s health advocates who are seeking longer-term funding certainty for the program, which will expire at the end of the month without congressional action. The deal also gradually phases out the enhanced federal share of funding for state CHIP programs, which was increased under the Affordable Care Act by 23 percentage points.

Health Brief: Some Navigators Shut Down Ahead of ACA Enrollment Period

Several navigator organizations, including one that received the largest federal grant for Obamacare enrollment activities in 2016, are suspending operations ahead of the 2018 open enrollment season because they haven’t received contracts for funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, which could cause enrollment to plummet. The Trump administration announced plans last month to cut funding for navigator groups by about 40 percent, but health officials haven’t said whether the grants would end altogether.

Health Brief: Teva Names New CEO

H. Lundbeck A/S’s Kaare Schultz was named as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.’s new chief executive officer, ending a seven-month search by the world’s largest generic drug maker to find a new leader. Schultz could face pressure to split the company into two businesses, one focusing on patented specialty drugs and the other on cheap copycat medicines

Health Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

HELP Committee Chairman Alexander hopes to reach bipartisan consensus on a bill to shore up the ACA exchanges by the end of the week. The committee is set to hold two final hearings as members try to resolve two issues: the duration of funding for insurer payments known as cost-sharing reductions and the best way to approach reinsurance.

Load More