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Coming into focus: Optometrists given right to practice in retail establishments

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Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill Tuesday that allows optometrists to rent space and practice optometry in retail establishments. Oklahoma voters rejected a similar measure last November. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman archives]
Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill Tuesday that allows optometrists to rent space and practice optometry in retail establishments. Oklahoma voters rejected a similar measure last November. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman archives]

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a Senate Bill on Tuesday that will allow optometry offices in retail establishments.

The bill allows retailers to sell frames and lenses, as well as lease space to licensed optometrists. The provision is similar to what was proposed under State Question 793, which was voted down by Oklahomans in November, but it contains several key differences.

SB 100 allows optometrists to rent space and practice optometry in retail establishments. It includes language calling for a separation between the doctor’s office and the rest of the retail establishment and independent ownership.

Dr. Selina McGee, an Edmond optometrist and president of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians, expressed her support for the measure in a statement.

“Our primary concern as eye doctors is protecting Oklahoma’s very high standards for quality of care and patient safety,” McGee said. “To preserve those high standards, optometrists need to be operating independently, free of corporate control or interference and governed by a medical board.

“SB 100 is consistent with those principles, where State Question 793 and other previous proposals were not."

SQ 793 sought to allow for optometric practice in retail stores. It received financial backing from retailers like Walmart and Costco.

But two sentences included near the end of the state question led many optometrists to oppose the question, believing a retailer could limit an optometrist's scope of practice.

“It does not prohibit optometrists and opticians from agreeing with retail mercantile establishments to limit their practice,” the state question said. “Laws conflicting with this section are void.”

Individuals, primarily optometrists, contributed more than $954,000 to the “Oklahomans Against SQ 793” committee in the leadup to its appearance on the November ballot.

The committee also received contributions from optometric associations in Mississippi, Arkansas, California, Nebraska, Colorado, Oregon and South Dakota, in addition to the Oklahoma Association for Optometric Professionals.

The Oklahoma Association for Optometric Professionals supported SB 100 and thanked Stitt on Tuesday by publishing a release saying the legislation “will protect Oklahoma’s vision health standards while increasing convenience for consumers.”

SB 100 was co-authored by 23 legislators.

David Dishman

Business Writer David Dishman has worked as a journalist in Oklahoma since 2014 covering business, education, local government, healthcare and more. He worked as a reporter in southeast Oklahoma before joining the business team at The Oklahoman in... Read more ›

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