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Bill Allowing Optometrists To Perform Eye Surgeries Advances

A bill that would allow optometrists to expand their practices and perform certain surgeries gets approval from The House.

The legislation is by Denham Springs Rep. Rogers Pope, who said the proposal is about giving the people of Louisiana better access to eye-care services.

“And the key point here is it will not force anybody to go anywhere to get any eye-care service that they want from any doctor that they choose not to,” said Pope.

"Nowhere in Louisiana law have I read where there’s a definition for a minor surgical procedure."

Supporters of the bill say it will give their constituents more options when it comes to whom they choose to work on their eyes.

Baton Rouge Rep. Regina Barrow said transportation is key for many Louisianians.

“And especially in rural communities that may be very hard for individuals to be able to make some of those appointments,” said Barrow. “But we have a lot more optometrists who are a lot closer than some of the ophthalmologists.”

Groups representing ophthalmologists have been lobbying lawmakers hard to vote against this bill by saying arguing optometrists are not doctors who can perform the eye surgeries.

Shreveport Rep. Thomas Carmody said his brother is an ophthalmologist who went through years of schooling in order to become an M.D. “in order to provide these types of services (and) to assure that he could diagnose and then perform these surgical practices,” said Carmody.

Pope said optometrists have already been trained to perform the simple procedures that are included in the legislation.

Carmody said most lawmakers don’t have the expertise to make such an important health and safety decision and this should not be a process of politics.

“Nowhere in Louisiana law have I read where there’s a definition for a minor surgical procedure,” said Carmody. “And I would disagree with my friend Representative Pope on what I consider to be a bad bill.”

The vote was 66-30 and the bill heads to the Senate.

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