HB 1037 – Florida Politics

As Eyeball Wars peak, optometrists seek desperate, last-minute buzzer beater

After suffering a significant setback last week in the Eyeball Wars, optometrists may be mounting a last-ditch effort to get their bill rolling in the House.

When will this bad bill just die? It has long past time to put an end to the Eyeball Wars in 2017, perhaps for good.

Last week, HB 1037 stalled in the House Health and Human Services Committee after it had appeared there were not enough votes to pass. The companion bill, SB 1168, has never been heard in the Senate.

Now, lobbyists for optometrists – numbering an even dozen – may be looking to get the controversial bill passed by attaching it to some sort of health care legislative train.


HB 1037, sponsored by Rep. Manny Diaz, seeks to expand the practice of optometry to include performing surgery and prescribing opiates, a move vehemently opposed by ophthalmologists, the American Medical Association, and other professional medical groups. Each group raised concerns about patient safety and optometrists’ relative lack of education, knowledge and experience.

As per Florida rules, before Day 55 of the Regular Legislative Session: “Main floor amendments must be submitted to the House Bill Drafting Service by 3 p.m. and approved for filing with the Clerk by 4 p.m. on the first day a bill appears on the Special-Order Calendar in the Calendar of the House.”

However, after Day 55, things get a little more complicated: Main floor amendments must be approved for filing with the Clerk not later than two hours before Session is scheduled to convene on the day a bill appears on the Special-Order Calendar in the House.

That said, this week will become a make-it-or-break-it moment for optometrists, looking to piggyback HB 1037 on a health care bill – or any bill, for that matter – for a fourth quarter buzzer-beater in the Eyeball Wars.

Nevertheless, as HB 1037 met with widespread condemnation by more than two dozen high-profile health organizations, as well as receiving somewhat tepid support in the House – struggling with slim margins in each committee stop – taking the shot may not be worth the risk.

This bill should rightfully face death in committee – as it should be for something so unpopular – instead of making a part of a larger health care train, only to have the whole thing die in the Senate anyway.

The clock is ticking, why waste everyone’s time? Best to pick another battle, one with a better chance of success.

Hopefully, as sine die approaches, so will the end of this horrible, dangerous train wreck of an idea.

‘Eyeball Wars’ bill, slated for House committee, goes unheard Thursday

A bill seeking to expand what optometrists could do — namely, performing surgery and prescribing opiates — was an agenda item in the Florida House Health and Human Services Committee Thursday.

However, the bill at the center of Florida’s Eyeball Wars went unheard.

HB 1037, sponsored by Rep. Manny Diaz, barely cleared Health and Human Services Health Quality Subcommittee last month, on an 8-7 vote.

Last month, the Diaz bill — as was the case in subcommittee — was lauded by optometrists, who have long sought to expand their practices, and dissed by ophthalmologists, who see it as yet another attempt to encroach on their areas of practice.

HB 1037 seeks to expand optometry into the practice of medicine and laser surgery, in particular, a move fiercely opposed by ophthalmologists, who raise a concern over the comparative lack of instruction for optometrists.

A similar controversy was expected Thursday in the full committee, but it didn’t manifest.

As the measure stalls out in the House, it appears to be equally mired in the Senate, where Jack Latvala is carrying the bill.

There, it has yet to be heard by any of the three committees of reference.

Eyeball Wars rage as dozens of medical groups oppose optometrists, claiming ‘serious threat’ to care

A growing number of medical professionals have joined forces in a wave of disapproval of optometrists in Florida’s “Eyeball Wars,” which is now making way through Tallahassee.

HB 1037, which seeks to allow optometrists to perform surgery and prescribe opiates, among other things, now sits on the agenda of the House Health & Human Services Committee.

This week, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at University of Miami School of Medicine became the latest medical group to publicly oppose the bill, adding its name to a list that now stands at two dozen.

Each of these highly regarded medical professionals — which include the American Medical Association, the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, and the American College of Surgeons (ACS) — strongly argue that the passage of HB 1037 would pose a serious threat to the health and safety of millions of Floridians.

The bill seeks to expand optometry further into the practice of medicine and laser surgery, a move fiercely opposed by ophthalmologists, who raise concern over the comparative lack of instruction for optometrists. HB 1037 would expand the scope of optometry compared to ophthalmologists — who have the required training and education — to include the practice of medicine and surgery, as defined by both the ACS and Florida Statute.

In the letter released Tuesday, Bascom Palmer Ophthalmology Chair Dr. Eduardo Alfonso, joined by Vice Chair Dr. Steven Gedde and Medical Director Dr. Stephen Schwartz, warn:

“There are no shortcuts to learning to safely perform eye surgery. Ophthalmologists complete four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical education, one year of internship, and then three years of ophthalmology residency training, such as that provided at Bascom Palmer.”

“In summary, we believe that HB 1037 and [Senate companion] SB 1168 represent a serious threat to patient safety, public welfare, and quality of care … The citizens of Florida deserve far better than the superficial and inadequate ‘training’ that is provided for in these bills.”

Ophthalmologists — licensed to practice medicine and surgery — contend that HB 1037 (as Dr. David Hoyt, executive director of the American College of Surgeons, wrote recently) works against the “interest of patient safety and maintaining the highest standards of surgical care.”

Professional medical groups so far opposed to HB 1037 include:

Florida Society of Ophthalmology

American Academy of Ophthalmology

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Florida Medical Association

American Medical Association

American College of Surgeons

Florida Chapter of the American College of Surgeons

Florida Society of Anesthesiologists

Florida Osteopathic Medical Association

Florida Chapter of the American College of Physicians

Florida Society of Plastic Surgeons

Florida Radiological Society

Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgeons

Florida Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons

Florida Orthopaedic Society

Florida Society of Nephrology

Florida College of Emergency Physicians

Florida Orthopedic Society

Florida Society of Rheumatology

Florida Society of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians

Florida Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics

Florida Academy of Family Physicians

Florida Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (FSIPP)

Florida Psychiatric Society

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Florida Society of Pathologists


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