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West Virginia Scope of Practice Expansion Bills Under Study

May 2009

Optometric Management (www.optometricmanagement.com)

Although identical House (H.B. 2978) and Senate (S.B. 570) optometric scope-of-practice expansion bills before the West Virginia legislature didn’t pass during the state’s last legislative session, the Legislative Interim committee will study the subject, as per House Concurrent Resolution 46 (visit ww.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Text_HTML/2009_SESSIONS/RS/BILLS/hcr46%20intr.htm).

The House and Senate bills were designed to lift practice restrictions on the state’s licensed O.D.s, while allowing the state Board of Optometry to regulate practice in West Virginia. (Visit www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=hb2978%20intr.htm&yr=2009&sesstype=RS&i=2978 to view the House bill, which again, is the same as the Senate Bill.)

“The current scope of practice law is antiquated, given the evolvement of medical technology, which has translated to new training at accredited optometry schools,” says Chad D. Robinson, executive director of the West Virginia Optometric Association (WVOA). “The bills seek to allow an optometrist licensed in West Virginia to practice what they have been taught in or properly trained in through an accredited school of optometry. In other words, if the optometrist is properly trained in a specific clinical practice, these bills say he should be able to perform that clinical practice in West Virginia.”

An example of a clinical practice in which several O.D.s have undergone training, though the current law doesn’t allow: Injectable drugs for age-related macular degeneration.

Mr. Robinson adds that West Virginia O.D.s believe that patients will receive better care and more access to eye care in the state with these restrictions lifted.

The Legislative Interim Committee, comprised of House and Senate members, meet monthly to study topics that have been decided at Session’s end.

If the committee can come up with a proposal, they’ll make these recommendations to the full body of the Legislature. This could be the agreed upon bill language. The 2010 legislative session begins in the second week of January.

“We will know more later this year,” says Mr. Robinson. “Our association is determined to work on this issue until it’s resolved.”

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