Nearly 40 million Americans use contact lenses. It is an estimated $4 billion market that was once held captive by opportunistic eye doctors. Thanks to legislation passed by Congress in 2003, consumers became free to receive copies of their prescriptions and shop in a competitive marketplace. The result was more choices and lower prices. Now, however, that free market legislation has come under assault by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), a supposed small government Republican who is leading an effort on behalf of the ophthalmologists and optometrists to make it more difficult for consumers to purchase their lenses online or at third party stores.
Sen. Cassidy has introduced the so-called “Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act”, that, in the name of “safety,” imposes new, costly burdens on online lens sellers. Of course, the premise of his legislation is false, and he knows it. Ordering contacts online in the United States is no different than ordering them directly from an eye doctor. You still must have a prescription in order to complete the transaction.