(4/7/17) For Immediate Release
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Oklahoma Optometric Physicians Challenge Walmart Petition
The Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians (OAOP) - an organization representing more than 700 Oklahoma eye doctors - today filed a legal challenge to Walmart's initiative petition to allow big box stores to profit from the practice of optometry. The OAOP is challenging Walmart's petition on the basis of "logrolling," or combining different topics into one, a violation of the state's "single subject rule" for legislation and constitutional amendments.
Walmart's petition erroneously lumps "optometric physicians" and "opticians" into the same category, allowing big box stores to house both, even though they are very different professions.
"Optometric physicians are doctors who perform surgeries, diagnose and manage chronic eye diseases, and are tasked with detecting potentially life threatening conditions," said Glenn Coffee, whose Oklahoma City-based law firm has been retained by the OAOP. "The state has decided that it's better to keep medical professionals like optometrists out of big retail stores like Walmart.
"Opticians, on the other hand, are not licensed medical professionals," said Coffee. "They are technical practitioners who dispense and fit corrective lenses. Unfortunately, Walmart's petition wrongly and unconstitutionally lumps opticians and optometric physicians together, which is why it should be thrown out."
Emphasis on Health vs. Walmart Profits
OAOP President Dr. Michelle Welch, an Idabel-based optometric physician, says that Walmart's petition will ultimately hurt patients. She says Oklahoma's current laws are designed to promote good vision health and high quality care, and Walmart is seeking to lower the bar.
"Oklahoma's high standards for care are attracting the best optometric physicians from across the country," said Welch. "We have one of the finest optometry schools in the nation at Northeastern State University. Unlike other health care sectors, we don't have access-to-care problems. Optometrists come to Oklahoma and stay here, and they are practicing in the vast majority of our 77 counties.
"If we lower the bar and make our eye doctors into Walmart employees, I am afraid Oklahoma will no longer be a destination-state for vision care professionals. What we will see is less of a commitment to excellence, fewer people interested in practicing optometry, and worse outcomes for patients."
Welch said that the debate really came down to what was more important: health or big business.
"Our current laws were designed to promote good health. It would be a tragedy if we rewrote them to promote stronger sales for Walmart instead," said Welch.
The OAOP represents over 700 Optometric Physicians in Oklahoma. OAOP's mission is to lead optometric physicians through education and opportunities to improve vision, eye care, and health care.