Optometrists won a pitched and expensive (judging by lobbyist effort) battle against ophthalmologists today. The Senate approve Sen. Dave Wallace’s HB 1251 to amend state law to allow optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures.

The vote was 25-8, with two not voting. Opposition speeches came from the wives of two medical doctors, Sen. Cecile Bledose and Sen. Missy Irvin, two talked of the sensitivity of eye surgery and the greater level of training medical doctors receive. Sen. Will Bond also urged a vote with the medical doctors and also said he disagreed with a Bureau of Legislative Research opinion relative to the ability of the legislature to regulate the practice of medicine.

Wallace and others pitched the bill as providing greater access to services not readily available from a smaller number of ophthalmologists and one senator complained of the multiple trips he had to make to see a medical doctor for surgery for his father. Wallace emphasized that the bill wouldn’t prevent patients from seeking an ophthalmologist rather than eye doctor.

The bill earlier passed with 70 votes in the House.

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Debate highlight: Wallace announcing he knew how to pronounce ophthalmologist.

These procedures are specified in the bill. One senator noted that rules implementing this change still must pass legislative review.

(i) Injections, excluding intravenous or intraocular injections;

(ii) Incision and curettage of a chalazion;

(iii) Removal and biopsy of skin lesions with low risk of malignancy, excluding lesions involving the lid margin or nasal to the puncta;

(iv) Laser capsulotomy; and

(v) Laser trabeculoplasty.

Irvin asked senators if they’d entrust their children to an optometrist for such sensitive procedures. She said she wouldn’t. I nodded. Having been born with one eye, I’m not ready to have any surgery on the one I was born with, but it isn’t likely to be an optometrist should that day arrive.

Wallace disputed the argument against lacking of trainings. “They’re doctors,” he said. He said four states have already expanded rules in similar fashion. There have been “no reported incidents,” he said.