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Another DC-based think tank blasts anti-optometry Sullivan bill

January 16, 2012

Mere weeks after the conservative Heritage Foundation blasted so-called truth and transparency in health care legislation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has joined the growing vocal opposition and are now denouncing anti-optometry legislation sponsored by Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.).

In the Oct. 24 piece published in the Washington Times, CEI author Michelle Minton opens her article by explaining that Rep. Sullivan’s legislation is “a familiar story of one profession trying to get government to clamp down on its competitors. In this case, its ophthalmologists going after other providers of eye care, such as optometrists.”

Strongly backed by organized medicine, the Healthcare Truth and Transparency Act of 2011 (H.R. 451) seeks to place new controls on how ODs practice and provide care for patients. Already defeated by optometry in three previous Congresses, the AOA is once again leading the charge to rout this anti-optometry and anti-competitive bill.

“On the surface, it (H.R. 451) seems like its harmless and reasonable enough,” Minton opines in her article. “Yet, a slightly closer examination of the proposal shows that it is unnecessary, supersedes existing state laws and regulations, and is based on the assumption that consumers are too stupid to figure out the differences between licensed eye care providers.”

Debunking the supposed problem that the legislation claims to be fixing, the author notes that the federal government already has the power to address false or misleading advertising.

Additionally, every single state has a thorough licensing and regulatory scheme regarding what services each brand of health care providers may provide and rules regarding honesty in advertising and disclosure of health care provider qualifications.

“Therefore, a federal bill requiring disclosure is redundant and unnecessary,” Minton said. “One likely result of these regulatory redundancies would be an increase in operating costs for small eye clinics, which would have to keep an eye on new federal health care advertising rules in addition to existing state and local statutes regarding advertising and licensing. These increased compliance costs lead to higher prices for consumers.”

Minton sums up her assertions in the Washington Times article by stating H.R. 451 would “undermine states’ prerogative to license and regulate health care professionals, increase the cost for small optometric businesses and the cost of eye care for consumers, and do nothing to protect or enlighten consumers.”

“Astonishingly,” she said, “its sponsors include several Republican lawmakers who, on other occasions, have championed the benefits of economic freedom. This is an anti-business, anti-consumer bill. Any lawmaker who purports to defend free markets and individual choice should oppose it.” 

The CEI article comes on the back of an article published in August by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which also blasted Rep. Sullivan’s bill.

Heritage said that “it is all too easy to see that this legislation (H.R. 451) is less about protecting public health than about protecting the MDs’ monopoly and criminalizing competition.”

The Heritage article offered some advice for this bill’s sponsor by concluding: “Sullivan has been unduly persistent in his efforts to assist the American Academy of Ophthalmology…rather than adding to the nation’s torrent of red tape, Sullivan and his allies ought to eyeing ways to reduce unnecessary regulatory barriers of all types.”

The Competitive Enterprise Institute article can be found at http://cei.org/op-eds-articles/seeing-double-regulation.

The Heritage Foundation article can be found at http://blog.heritage.org/2011/08/08/tales-of-the-red-tape-17-a-myopic-regulatory-vision.

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