Eye bill clears House, rolls over to Senate


FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — Online eye exams and prescriptions offered in Kentucky would require a real-time visit with a Kentucky eye care provider under a bill approved today in the House.

House Bill 191 sponsor Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, said the bill is a patient protection measure. It was filed in response to a rise in online companies that allow individuals to get eye exams and prescriptions based on virtual eye exams taken with cell phone or computer apps.

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Gooch said HB 191 would not prohibit the use of “safe technology” for online eye care in Kentucky, but would improve on it by requiring a “simultaneous,” or real-time, interaction between consumers and Kentucky-licensed optometrists or physicians who would then have to sign off on the prescription. The bill would also require someone seeking an online eye exam or prescription to have had an in-person eye exam within the previous 24 months, among other requirements.

HB 191 “permits the use of telehealth and it permits consumers to choose where they purchase their glasses and contact lenses,” Gooch told the House.

Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, challenged the idea of having a real-time online requirement, saying she doesn’t think “it’s realistic to expect a physician or an optometrist or optician will be available 24 hours a day.”

Moser proposed a floor amendment that would have changed HB 191 to allow simultaneous or non-simultaneous interaction between patients and their eye care provider, but the amendment was defeated on a vote of 13-74.

Gooch said HB 191 would not expect optometrists or physicians to be on call 24/7.

“We’re just saying when a consumer goes online, there would be someone on there who is a licensed provider,” he said.

Among those voting in favor of HB 191 was Rep. Russell Webber, who said a recent in-person eye exam may have saved his daughter’s eyesight. The examination revealed that his daughter has a detached retina – a condition that can cause blindness if left untreated.

“I do not believe the technology is there that an online examination, or an online viewing, would have captured that,” said Webber, R-Shepherdsville. “It’s important that those who are having their eyes checked have that one-on-one time with their physician.”

HB 191 passed the House by a vote of 90-7. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Media release and photo from the Legislative Research Commission.