by NTU President Pete Sepp
“By attempting to amend a widely-supported 17-year-old law deservedly named the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, new Senate legislation called The Contact Lens Rule Modernization Act would unnecessarily tinker with one of the best pro-taxpayer reforms the FTC has ever undertaken.
From the Eyeglass Rule, to the original Contact Lens Rule spurred by the landmark Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, and now to the update of that Rule now slated to take effect October 15, consumers stand to gain from thoughtful procedures that allow them access to their eye care prescriptions. While oversight of FTC rulemakings is important, in this case Congress can and should feel confident in leaving well enough alone.
In stark contrast to some of its other policymaking, FTC’s actions regarding the contact lens marketplace have encouraged economic competition and innovation, whether in retail outlets or online. Taxpayers have benefitted as well, because of savings to government employee vision care plans and, looking forward, public health programs. Why would Congress want to reverse this progress?
FTC has spent five years of thoughtful stakeholder engagement and modification of its update to the Contact Lens Rule, balancing the concerns that the Senate bill would now attempt to reshuffle. The result of FTC’s methodical efforts is what NTU has called one of the finest examples of “deregulatory rulemaking” we have witnessed in our 50-year history. Congress should be celebrating this achievement, and instead directing its energies toward true FTC missteps in overregulating small businesses.
Senators who would support this bill out of concern for small business optometrists should pause and consider the potential costs of an end-run around FTC’s Contact Lens Rule update – less savings for taxpayers and consumers, less innovation, and less competition. Ironically, other small business owners and self-employed Americans who are keeping long, irregular hours trying to stay afloat during the pandemic, need the flexibility that the Contact Lens Rule update would provide more than most other Americans right now.
If public officials seek to lighten the burdens of government on small optometry businesses – a goal NTU wholeheartedly agrees with – then they should reject S. 4613 and instead work on reforms to health care licensure, HIPAA, tax, and workplace laws. In doing so, lawmakers would truly help these establishments to thrive in a challenging, and changing, economy.”