NEWS: Alaska Legislature Passes Legislation to Ensure Safe Standards for Eye Care

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz

House Bill 103 Updates Alaska’s Optometry Statutes and Ensures Safe Standards for Optometrists

May 12, 2017

Juneau – Today, the Alaska State Senate joined the Alaska House of Representatives in approving legislation to update state statutes and standards for optometrists and ophthalmologists. House Bill 103, sponsored by Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), allows the Board of Examiners of Optometry to use their professional expertise to regulate their profession in Alaska similar to how other professions are regulated. Additionally, the bill allows the board to set continuing education requirements for licensees in Alaska.

“My hope is that this bill will put to rest the over 40 year disagreement between optometrists and ophthalmologists about how to govern eye care in Alaska,” said Rep. Spohnholz. “I have great faith in the expertise of the eye care professionals in Alaska and feel confident this bill allows them to self-regulate and modernize their industry and continue to provide great care for all Alaskans.”

HB 103 authorizes the Board of Examiners of Optometry to allow optometrists to utilize the full scope of the training they have received at one of the 25 accredited schools of optometry. The bill also updates the definition of optometry and ophthalmic surgery to ensure that licensees protect patient safety by only performing authorized and regulated procedures. Optometrists in Alaska have a demonstrated track record of safety, which is evidenced by the fact that they have one of the lowest medical malpractice insurance rates in the nation.

“I am so pleased to see this piece of legislation finally pass the Alaska Legislature. It has been an honor to work with high-quality professionals like the optometrists who helped me with this legislation. I have no qualms about their ability to move forward and begin to operate and regulate themselves like their colleagues do in other medical professions. They have finally won the respect, through this legislation, that they deserve,” said Senator Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage), who sponsored the companion bill to HB 103 in the State Senate. “It was a pleasure to work with Representative Spohnholz on this bill. She and I share the values of accessible, quality, and affordable health care, such as HB 103 provides.”

House Bill 103 passed the Alaska State Senate today by a vote of 16-3. The bill passed the Alaska House of Representatives last month by a vote of 31-7. HB 103 will be sent to Governor Walker for his signature.

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


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