State Question 793: The Debate On Oklahoma Eye Care

Tuesday, September 25th 2018, 7:15 pm
By: Alex Cameron

Improved access to quality eye care, or a corporate takeover of eye care.

Two months out from the November election, that's essentially how the debate over State Question 793 is being framed by supporters and opponents.

Television ads for and against SQ 793 have already been running for several weeks, those supporting the measure suggesting passage will make it easier for anyone who needs eye care to get it.

Opposition ads, however, say passing 793 would be a huge mistake.

At a meeting last week of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians, anti-793 sentiment was strong.

Dr. Lynsey Bigheart, an optometrist with more than ten years of experience, says Oklahoma already has the best eye care in the nation.

"If this state question wins," Dr, Bigheart explained, "we will go to dead last."

Bigheart says SQ 793, which would allow optometrists to practice in retail locations, like Walmart, would result in profit taking precedence over the patient.

"Medical decisions need to be made by a doctor [who is] trained, who understands what's best for the patient," said Dr. Bigheart, "[and] whose motives are not profit."

But 793 advocates like Tim Tippit, whose equity group owns eye care practices in Ohio and Michigan, says, if 793 passes, any optometrist practicing in a Walmart, or in one of his offices, would have to be licensed by the state optometry board, just as eye doctors currently are.

"So it's a red herring being thrown by the other side," Tippit stated. "Patients -- Oklahoma patients -- will receive the same quality eye care exam that they do right now,"

What's more, Tippit says, the increased competition would drive down prices

"Why should Oklahomans have to pay $150 more for the same pair of frames," Tippit asked, "that someone in Fort Smith, Arkansas, or Wichita, Kansas, or Wichita Falls pays $150 less for? They shouldn't."

Opponents also point to language in the question that would allow optometrists in retail locations to limit their practices. Dr. Bigheart says this is a clear sign that Walmart will control the doctors' decisions.

But Tippit says that is another red herring. He says that is so that those optometrists don't have to offer laser surgery, if they don't want to.