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Florida Targets Optometrists with Onerous New Financial Burdens

A new Florida bill would impose unfair and unjustifiable costs on the state’s optometrists.

In a bold move for freedom, the Florida Legislature this year gave businesses the opportunity to sue local governments for ordinances that are arbitrary and unreasonable. Yet groundless new restrictions targeting optometrists would cost the profession up to $15 million to implement without any recourse.

If signed by Governor DeSantis, SB 230 will prohibit optometrists using the term “optometric physician,” a term they have used for more than 30 years. Optometrists, medical doctors, osteopathic doctors, chiropractors, and podiatrists are all included in the definition of physician under Florida Statutes.

Optometrists are also included in the Florida definition of physician for Medicare billing purposes and some federal workers compensation statutes. Yet, optometrists are the only group of these select healthcare providers not permitted to use the term “physician” in SB 230.

To comply with this arbitrary and unreasonable new law, optometrists will need to change and update their signage, business cards, letterheads and advertisements to remove a term that has been used for decades. Given the July 1 effective date, this is especially burdensome on the many optometrists who are solo practitioners or operate small group practices.

It’s also unjustifiable.

Proponents say the new law is needed to avoid patient confusion, but there have been no consumer complaints of an optometric physician being confused with an ophthalmologist. The term also has never been used by ophthalmologists.

And, while the local government bill requires a business impact estimate before a new ordinance is enacted – including the proposed purpose, estimated economic impact on businesses, and compliance costs – none of those considerations were factored into the passage of SB 230.

Optometrists are regulated and licensed by the State of Florida. They provide 85 percent of the primary eye care to the citizens of Florida. They are required to complete a rigorous four-year program at an accredited college of optometry, at least one additional year of supervised training in a clinical setting, and then pass a multipart written and clinical exam. There is no logical reason to prevent the profession of optometry from the use of the term “optometric physician.” This is an arbitrary and unreasonable government restriction on the profession and should be vetoed.