FTC Staff Urges Washington State Lawmakers to Weigh Impact of Proposed Eyecare Bill on Consumers


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Federal Trade Commission staff has raised concerns about potentially negative effects that a telehealth bill now before the Washington State legislature could have on consumers. The FTC staff voiced its views concerning likely impact of Substitute Senate Bill 5411/H.B. 1473 in a comment submitted on February 9 to Washington State lawmakers. The comment, which had been requested by Washington State Representative Paul Graves, noted that the proposed measure, among other things, would restrict the use of telehealth eyecare in which a practitioner distant from a patient uses data received by telecommunications as the basis for a prescription for corrective lenses.

The proposed legislation would require ophthalmologists and optometrists to conduct complete, comprehensive in-person eye exams before providing corrective vision prescriptions.

The staff of the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning and its Bureaus of Economics and Competition stated that the bill, if adopted, may reduce competition, access, and consumer choice in eyecare services, and might also raise costs for consumers. The comment explained that the proposed measure “would restrict the use of telehealth eyecare by qualified vision care providers, which would deny consumers the benefits of innovative eyecare telehealth technologies.” Also, the bill “might require unnecessary services by mandating a comprehensive examination before prescribing corrective lenses, regardless of the patient’s visual health status, examination history, or other circumstances.”

The comment encourages the legislature to “consider the potential effects of the Bill on competition in the provision of eyecare, and to avoid restrictions that override the judgment of practitioners and are not narrowly tailored to address well-founded patient safety concerns.”

The Commission vote to issue the staff comment was 2-0.