By Steve Sherman –
The Federal Trade Commission’s latest proposal to change the rules governing the process of prescribing contact lenses is a good idea for consumers. In recent years, a virtual war over the billion-dollar industry of contact lenses has been raging between free market innovators and old school crony’s intent on keeping monopolistic control.
The rubber meets the road in this argument with the issue of who owns your eye prescription? Do you or does the eye care professional who gave you the exam own it?
It’s really that simple, but the result has wide spread economic ramifications for our economy, consumers, and government crony’s beholden to special interests. When you go get your eyes examined, if your prescription is yours, you are given it and you can freely walk out the door without buying anything from the doctor who gave you the exam. You can then use that prescription to go online or to any store you like and order your contacts or glasses. That is freedom.
The powerful medical lobby in DC backed by the American Optometric Association feels differently. They believe that your prescription is not yours to take home. It should reside privately in the hands of the doctor who administered your exam. By essentially holding your prescription captive, you are then forced to order your contacts lenses from that office, usually for an elevated price compared to what can be found online or elsewhere.
Maintaining the control of the prescriptions is the only way to control the consumers buying habits. It is as simple as that. You are either for freedom in the market place or you are for collusion and monopolistic control designed to enrich entrenched power.
The medical lobby has gone so far as to put forward a bill called the Contact Lens Consumer Protection Act. The name itself is a sham as it does nothing but abuse the consumer. It should be named the Contact Lens Crony Protection Act. That would be more truthful. Any congressman supporting this bill is against the free market way of thinking and doesn’t care one bit about the consumers of America who simply want to be able to see clearly and not pay through the nose.
According to Real Clear Health, “The entrance of online retailers and discount warehouses to the eyewear market has offered consumers less expensive alternatives to purchasing directly from a prescriber. Over time, declining profit margins and market share have prompted eye-care providers to respond by leveraging the one important lever over which they still have control: the prescription-verification process.”
The other thing eye-care providers have done to combat declining market share is make a call to their favorite crony’s in government to get them to change the rules to crush that pesky competition.
Many times, the FTC has thwarted business, but in this case, they have presented a real way to protect the consumers of America. Their proposal helps to safeguard consumers enjoying the freedom that literally the rest of the world enjoys in buying their contact lenses. The fact that the FTC is coming down for freedom is a welcome sign for consumers everywhere, but rest assured this fight is not over.
As Trump picks his cabinet and America waits to see if he will drain the swamp in DC, the FTC has helped that cause with this proposal. It’s a classic case of crony capitalists attempting to crush the free market to protect their interests that have nothing to do with providing the best product possible at an affordable price.