Massachusetts optometrists would have the authority to treat glaucoma and ocular abnormalities of the human eye and the adjoining and adjacent tissue, as well as prescribe all necessary eye-related medications including all anti-infective agents, in proposed legislation H.1169 and S.1242.
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Each bill does not allow optometric utilization or prescription of therapeutic pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of systemic diseases; invasive surgical procedures; pharmaceutical agents administered by subdermal, intramuscular, intravenous, subcutaneous or retrobulbar injection; nor opioid medications, according to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website.
This week, Forgues testified in front of the Joint Public Health Committee for the standalone bill along with Gary Chu, OD, MPH, FAAO, senior director of public health and community collaborations at New England College of Optometry, and Michael A. Purdy, OD, a practitioner in Northampton and MSO chair.
Purdy and Forgues commented on the merits of the bill, the access and choice components and the cost savings to the state health care system, according to Forgues.
In addition, they addressed “the improved health care delivery system it would create, stressing this is for patients and the doctor/patient relationship. We stressed that Massachusetts residents deserve the same standard of care that is offered everywhere else in the country,” Forgues added.
Chu addressed the education issue and stressed the impact this has on students deciding to stay and practice in the state.
A state budget issue
MSO conquered its first big hurdle for scope expansion more than a week ago when the Senate released its version of the state budget, and the modernized scope was included, Forgues added.
Now the MSO is working with the House to come up with its version of the health care portion of the state budget to include the same improved scope of practice.
Similar legislation has passed in the Senate six times and has always been held up in the House, he said.
Forty-one years since the first optometric glaucoma legislation passed in West Virginia, it may finally be time for the state to modernize. Thirty-nine states have possessed glaucoma treatment rights for 20 years or more, according to documents provided by MSO.
Cost savings, OD student retention
One benefit of the legislation is cost savings. MSO organized an independent cost analysis with the firm Health Management Associates (HMA) to determine the depth of cost savings for the state if the legislation were approved.
Conservatively, HMA determined that it would save Massachusetts Medicaid $20 million dollars alone.
“So, that’s why we’ve become part of the state budget,” Forgues said.
As optometrists are on the front line of patient care, “we see the majority of patients, and when we identify there’s glaucoma, we have to send them out needlessly,” he continued.