Assemblymember Amy Paulin’s Bill Authorizing Optometrists to Prescribe Oral Eye Medication, Expanding Healthcare Access, is Signed into Law

Albany, NY – Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) announces that her legislation (A.1921/S.1519) which authorizes optometrists to prescribe oral eye medication, expanding eye care access to millions of New Yorkers, has been signed into law.

“Patients need the full range of diagnosis and treatment from optometrists, including the prescription of oral drugs to treat eye disease which, left untreated, can result in greater healing time or permanent damage to a patient’s eyesight and health,” said Paulin. “Optometrists are primary eye care providers in much of New York State, particularly to those who are underinsured and those living in rural areas of the state. This bill allows optometrists to provide a much-needed service and is a positive step in expanding healthcare access for New Yorkers.” 

Currently New York optometrists are authorized to provide primary eye care to patients including prescribing topical medications, such as eye drops. Allowing for optometrists to prescribe oral eye medication eliminates the need for patients to be referred to other providers (e.g., ophthalmologists, primary care physicians, and emergency rooms) for the prescription of oral medications – eliminating additional health care system costs and co-pays for unnecessary second visits.

Optometrists are trained and experienced in eye care. They are required to complete a 4-year post-graduate degree focused solely on eye disease and treatment, required to take continuing education courses, and often advise and collaborate with medical doctors on diagnosis and treatment.

Currently every other state, including the District of Columbia and the Veterans’ Administration system in New York, permit optometrists to prescribe oral medications for ocular conditions, with New York being the only exception until now. In fact, 32 states granted oral prescriptive authority to optometrists more than a decade ago, with North Carolina having enacted its statute in 1977 – 41 years ago.

“We’re so appreciative of the leadership and dedication of Assemblymember Paulin in the passage of this bill,” said Dr. Viola Kanevsky, President of the New York State Optometric Association. “Optometrists throughout the country have been safely prescribing these medications to patients for decades,” she added. “In New York, patients come into our offices seeking the care we are well trained to provide for their eye conditions and instead are being referred on for multiple unnecessary and expensive appointments. Authorizing optometrists to prescribe oral medications alleviates stress on our healthcare system, reduces costs, and most crucially, increases access to timely eye care services for all New Yorkers.”

David Heath, President of the SUNY College of Optometry in New York City, said “SUNY College of Optometry provides training to optometry students to dispense oral drugs and meet national standards for care. I commend Assemblymember Paulin for the passage of this legislation, which will now enable optometrists to prescribe time-sensitive, sight-saving medication to our patients, including those who are most vulnerable and have limited access to care.”

“There are about 3,000 optometrists in New York, and 18 of the state’s 62 counties do not have practicing ophthalmologists, though 15 of those have optometrists. This is truly an access-to-care issue,” said Paulin. “This law will help ensure that patients in need of medical eye care have can obtain treatment that is the standard of care throughout the nation.”

This bill is sponsored in the New York State Senate by Senator Jamaal Bailey.