Dear Chairman Leahy and Chairman Van Hollen,
As two of the leading voices for consumers in the US Senate and leaders in the fight for access for health care, we have always counted on your support when it comes upholding key consumer protections and laws. One issue our three organizations are very involved with is protecting the rights of contact lens consumers and ensuring access to vision care for all Americans.
Over the years, you both have been strong and vocal supporters of rights for contact lens consumers which is why we were so surprised to see report language added to the FY 22 Senate Financial Services and General Appropriations bill that jeopardizes the rights of millions of Americans who wear contact lenses, undermines the Fairness for Contact Lens Consumer Act passed by Congress in 2003 and weakens the FTC’s Contact Lens Rule issued with a 5-0 unanimous vote last year.
Unlike the report language issued by the House Appropriations Committee for FY 22, your report language tilts the careful balance of protections for contact lens consumers back towards the optometric lobby and contains language that the optometric lobby has been promoting for years to no avail with key regulators around “patient safety gaps”.
As you work to pass the FY 22 Appropriations bills, we strongly urge you to revert to the House report language and reject this attempt by the optometric lobby to undo 25 plus years of strong work by Congress, the FTC and States Attorneys General to protect the rights of contact lens consumers.
Unlike so-called “patient safety gaps”, the real problem we need your help fixing is one that is created by optometrists—not giving consumers a copy of their prescription. The Senate’s time and resources would be better served in enforcing the FTC Rule and supporting efforts to ensure consumers know their rights, not in weakening one of the most popular consumer protection laws in decades.
As we witnessed during the pandemic, easy access to prescriptions and the ability to buy affordable lenses and glasses online or at a big box store was essential for workers, students and families, especially when doctors offices were closed or it was unsafe to travel outside. Now is not the time to be taking away access to vision care and competition in the marketplace.
We ask that you continue to protect the rights of contact lens consumers and stand up to these efforts to weaken consumer protections.
Ken McEldowney, Executive Director, Consumer Action
Sindy Benavides, Chief Executive Officer, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Dr Elena Rios, President, National Hispanic Medical Association