DOJ, FTC urge P.R. to expand scope of optometrist duties
The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the staff of the Federal Trade Commission issued a joint statement Wednesday encouraging the Puerto Rican legislature to consider expanding the services that optometrists can provide.
The statement describes the potential benefits to patients of enhanced competition among vision care providers, including greater access to timely and cost competitive care. It recommends that the legislature only maintain restrictions on optometrists to utilize and prescribe medications for treatment and diagnosis that are necessary to ensure patient health and safety.
The joint statement is in response to a request from Puerto Rico Rep. José L. Báez-Rivera, chair of the House Public Safety Committee. The request asked for views on the possible competitive effects of Senate Bill 991, which would expand the scope of practice for optometrists in Puerto Rico and permit them to use and prescribe medications to diagnose and treat diseases of the eye.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Puerto Rico has the highest percentage of adults in the United States and its territories with blindness or severe difficulty seeing,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse, head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.
“As our statement explains, increasing competition among eye care providers in Puerto Rico by allowing optometrists to perform more eye care services can help expand access to cost effective and timely care,” Hesse said. “Whenever it is consistent with patient safety, competition should play a key role in controlling health care costs.”
The agencies’ comments are limited to Senate Bill 991’s effect on the authority of optometrists to use and prescribe medications and its competitive effects. The measure would provide optometrists in Puerto Rico — like optometrists in all states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. territories — with the authority to prescribe at least some medications for the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases.
Providing optometrists a pharmacological role in the care they provide, with conditions the legislature finds appropriate to ensure patient safety, has the potential to bring the benefits of competition to Puerto Rican health care consumers, the agencies said.