Rep. Ivy Spohnholz

HB 103 Improves the Alaska Optometry Statutes and Ensures Safe Standards for Optometrist

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2017

Juneau – For over 40 years, optometrists and ophthalmologists have been sparring over statutes that govern eye health care for Alaskans. Today, the Alaska House of Representative passed legislation that updates antiquated statutes regulating licenses of optometry and the Board of Examiners of Optometry.  HB 103, sponsored by Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), seeks to improve and update the statutes that govern the board by allowing them to regulate their standards of practice similar to other boards with prescriptive authority (e.g. dentists, nurses, and doctors). The bill also allows the Board of Examiners of Optometry to set the continuing education requirements for a licensee to continue to practice. 

“The Board of Examiners of Optometry has a strong track record of regulating themselves safely and within what is currently in statute,” said Rep. Spohnholz. “It is my hope that this bill will get the Alaska Legislature out of the business of managing optometrists, so we can focus our efforts and energy on issues which really do require our attention. Passing this bill allows optometrists to get on with the business of providing appropriate and safe eye health care for all Alaskans.” 

HB 103 ensures that optometrists will practice to the standards to which they are trained, educated and experienced. Much of the debate over what optometrists can and cannot do has been over defining “ophthalmic surgery.” HB 103 features a specific definition of ophthalmic surgery, which ophthalmologists have been seeking for decades. The bill limits optometrists from preforming any procedure, which they have not be trained on by an accredited school of optometry. The procedure must also be approved by the Board of Examiners of Optometry and the Department of Law.

HB 103 passed the Alaska House of Representatives today by a vote of 31-7. The bill will be sent to the Alaska State Senate for consideration after a reconsideration vote is held in the Alaska House. 

For more information, please contact Bernice Nisbett in Rep. Spohnholz’s office at (907) 465-2696

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