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NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION
submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A3607 SPONSOR: Morelle (MS)
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the education law, in relation to the practice of ophthalmic dispensing   PURPOSE: This bill authorizes opticians, who obtain an additional certification from the State Education Department, to assess a person's visual acuity, in order to determine the degree of correction necessary to compensate for various vision deficiencies such as nearsightedness or farsighted- ness through the use of eyeglasses or contact lenses.   SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: This amends § 7121 of the Education Law which defines opticians' scope of practice, to authorize opticians to practice visual assessment under certain conditions. The bill adds three additional subdivisions to § 7121 which define visual assessment, establish certain educational requirements for opticians to meet in order to be certified to practice visual assessment, and require opticians to refer consumers whose vision cannot be corrected through the use of lenses beyond a certain degree.   JUSTIFICATION: Visual assessment is the skill necessary to determine the particular type of lens (eyeglasses or contact lenses) necessary to correct the usual causes of vision deficiencies. Visual assessment as such is a mechanical process, not a medical procedure. However, visual assessment is an essential component of vision care since it determines the degree of correction lenses must provide in order to correct the vision defi- ciencies. Visual assessment does not constitute an examination of the interior of the eyeball for purposes of determining pathologies or other medical conditions of the eye. As a non-medical process, but one which is essential to the dispensing of corrective lenses, there is no reason that opticians who are appropriately trained should not practice visual assessment. The vast majority of consumers who have vision deficiencies described in this bill do not have medical conditions attendant to or causing such deficiencies. In these cases, the need for an eye examina- tion, other than assessing the consumer's visual acuity, is uncalled for and not warranted. The net effect of this bill will be to expand corrective vision services to the consumer by expanding the number of eye care practitioners who may perform visual assessment and thereby prescribe corrective lenses. This also allows the consumer to obtain prescribing services for correc- tive lenses from the practitioner who, in the majority of cases, will ultimately dispense the eyeglasses or contact lenses. The bill also provides an additional consumer protection by requiring opticians who perform visual assessment to refer consumers to an ophthalmologist or optometrist if their vision cannot be corrected beyond a certain point by lenses. It should be noted that visual assessment is not foreign to the scope of practice of opticianry presently. Those opticians who are certified to dispense contact lenses are essentially skilled in and visually assess consumers presently in order to properly fit contact lenses. This process is referred to as over-refracting. In addition, practitioners who would practice visual assessment must meet additional education and clinical requirements and be certified by the commissioner after passing an examination.   FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None to the state.   LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: A.7978: Referred to Higher Education   EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect on the one hundred eightieth day after it shall have become a law provided, however, the commissioner of education is hereby authorized to promulgate regulations and take such other actions necessary to effectuate the purposes of this act prior to such date.