ST. LOUIS—The American Optometric Association (AOA) Board of Trustees issued a statement in response to proposed Florida legislation that would ban optometrists from referring to themselves as physicians. Members of the Florida House of Representatives voted on May 4 to pass Senate Bill 230 that would prevent health care providers who are not medical doctors or osteopathic physicians from referring to themselves as “doctors” or "physicians" in interactions with patients and advertisements. The bill first passed in the House with a 111-13 vote on May 3 but it was sent back to the Senate after the addition of an amendment that would have allowed optometrists to continue to use the term “physician.” However, the Senate refused to concur on the amendment, and the House passed it with a 79-34 vote.

The bill now sits on the desk of Florida Gov. Ron DeSanits with no timetable, according to a spokesperson for the AOA.

Yesterday, the AOA Board of Trustees issued the following statement in response to the proposed legislation:

“The American Optometric Association (AOA) will vigorously oppose any attempt to prevent Florida-licensed doctors of optometry from legally practicing at the highest levels allowed by state and federal law, including their ability to effectively communicate with their patients by introducing unnecessary confusion. The proposed legislation undermines the doctor-patient relationship that will, in turn, jeopardize patient outcomes.

The AOA, in concert with the Florida Optometric Association (FOA), is tirelessly working to have SB 230 vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. However, in the event this does not happen, the AOA will continue to stand side by side with the FOA and their patients. The AOA will use all means necessary to identify and defend against unjust targeting of our FOA members and the optometric profession.

If necessary, the AOA is prepared to take steps up to and including legal action against any effort to discriminate against the profession of optometry or infringe on optometry’s essential and expanding role in the Florida health care system,” according to the statement from the AOA.