Telemedicine, the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients through telecommunications technology, represents the best hope for access to affordable health care worldwide. New groundbreaking technologies, which allow consumers to receive a remote eye exam and refill their eye prescription from the comfort of their home, are the beginning of a new era in health care innovation.
In typical fashion, big government lobbyists, led by the American Optometric Association (AOA) and Johnson & Johnson, have spent millions of dollars trying to defeat these measures in states like South Carolina, New Mexico, and Nevada, all of which have been quite unsuccessful.
In South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley vetoed a bill that would have prohibited most uses of ocular telemedicine, saying, “it uses health practice mandates to stifle competition for the benefit of a single industry … putting us on the leading edge of protectionism, not innovation.” In Nevada, although lobbyists were originally successful in having Assemblywoman Jill Tolles peddle their legislative wishes, Tolles quickly caught on to their true intentions and pulled the anti-innovation bill from consideration.
In New Mexico, the AOA pestered the state’s legislature until they found two cooperative individuals -- Democratic Reps. Deborah Armstrong and Sheryl Williams-Stapleton -- willing to put forth a bill that would ban ocular telemedicine in the state. The two bureaucrats went a step further, introducing a bill that would send doctors to jail who use this technology to help their patients.
Why you may ask?
The sole argument against the use of ocular telehealth is that this technology is not safe -- a face-to-face encounter is needed from a health and safety standpoint. This is a lie, as even those who use this technology need to go to the eye doctor once every two years for a comprehensive eye exam (ironically, that's all the AOA recommends, too). They just don't need to be required to go to the eye doctor every single time a lens refill is needed.
The real reason the AOA and Johnson and Johnson want to put physicians in prison is because it undermines their entire business model, which relies on selling overpriced eyewear to consumers that they often don’t need. Eyeglasses, which frequently cost consumers hundreds of dollars if purchased straight from the eye care professional, can be had for a fraction of the cost if bought outside their offices.
For these reasons and more, the New Mexico bill failed to go into effect; it was quickly vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez.
Last week, the AOA and Johnson & Johnson continued their losing streak in the state of Connecticut, where the legislature passed a bill that allows for online contact prescription renewal throughout the state. Legislators in Connecticut supported the measure because it dramatically lowers costs for consumers and spreads affordable health care access to historically underserved communities.
Other states such as Virginia have passed similar bills, while many more are looking at the possibility of following their lead. After vetoing the bill that would send doctors to jail, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez told reporters, “We should explore new technologies and opportunities to expand the availability of services, not prohibit them.”
Johnson and Johnson and the AOA’s anti-consumer crusade is no better than the taxi cab lobby’s persecution of Uber, which has reduced drunk driving deaths more than any government-funded program could. This is another textbook example of crony capitalists who are trying to use our government for their financial gain to the detriment of the average American.
New technology in ocular telemedicine and beyond represents the best hope for expanded and more affordable health care in America, not another government program that reduces access and affordability. The free market is the catalyst for the real health care revolution in America.