Perhaps more than any other industry, eye care has long suffered from protectionist impulses. These impulses limit patient choice when it comes to selecting contact lenses.
After several decades of hard-earned gains, today’s consumers have more choices than ever for purchasing prescription eyewear. Unfortunately, a recently introduced bill in Congress threatens to move things backward. The legislation comes in a new form, but in reality, it’s just another attempt to help optometrists at the expense of patients.
The eye care industry has been notoriously rife with cronyism largely because optometrists were positioned to act as both doctor and salesman. Patients would go to an eye doctor, obtain a prescription and then effectively be forced to buy products like contact lenses directly from their doctor. This gave optometrists a powerful monopoly over the sale of eyewear, resulting in eye doctors steering patients toward the brands they carried rather than the most affordable lenses.