State Question Could Change How Oklahomans Get Eye Care

Friday, November 2nd 2018, 10:14 pm
By: News On 6

Early voting is underway and one State Question, 793, would allow optometrists to operate and sell eyeglasses out of big box stores like Walmart. People are split over the impact it would have on the quality of eye care in our state.

9/25/2018 Related Story: State Question 793: The Debate On Oklahoma Eye Care

Supporters of State Question 793 say all this will do is make affordable eye care a reality at places like Walmart in Oklahoma. But optometrists say this could take Oklahoma from having the best eye care in the nation to having the very worst.

State Question 793 Supporters say voting "yes" will allow you to walk into a "big box" store like Walmart, get an eye exam, and walk away with eyeglasses for less.

"By preventing competition, we're basically paying an eye care tax," said 793 supporter David Tackett.

Tackett said the state question doesn't compromise the quality of eye care.

"It is clearly stated in the state question that every optometrist is going to have to operate under the exact same rules and regulations as any other optometrist," said Tackett.

He said this is something 47 other states are already doing. But optometrist Lynsey Bigheart said that's not the case.

"This would be the first time not only in the profession of optometry but where any retailer has been given control over a medical practice," said Bigheart. 

The proposed question says it will "not prohibit optometrists and opticians from agreeing with retail establishments to limit their practice." Bigheart said that means Walmart could decide to leave out key parts of the exam that could detect life or sight-threatening diseases.

"You can have the best doctor in the world working at Walmart, but if they're limiting their practice and not performing the necessary testing, they would miss diseases that are very much a part of a comprehensive eye exam," said Bigheart. 

Bigheart said in the end it’s all about making more money.

"So, what may take me an hour … Walmart may make it where the doctor sees six or seven in that amount of time," said Bigheart.

A spokesperson from Walmart said optometrists will simply rent spaces in their stores and then the optometrist will decide how to run their businesses from there.