By Dr. Darren Wright, President
Nebraska Optometric Association
Distributed to all Nebraska daily newspapers, April 2, 2014

Dr. Darren WrightI’m writing on behalf of the 330 Doctors of Optometry serving in more than 80 communities across the state of Nebraska in support of LB526, a bill before the Legislature that would allow optometrists to perform several additional procedures and prescribe several additional medications that treat common conditions of the eye and eyelids.

Patients in Nebraska are not allowed the same level of care from primary care optometrists as patients in many other states.

Optometrists are the most prevalent and accessible eyecare providers in Nebraska. LB526 will reduce costs by increasing access to additional care. Less travel for appointments, less wait for appointments, fewer duplicate appointments due to referrals. Physician shortages in Nebraska’s rural areas have been widely reported. Utilizing non-M.D. providers to the fullest extent of their training is acknowledged as a remedy for these shortages.

As primary eye care providers, Doctors of Optometry are trained to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders that affect the eye or vision. These doctoral-level professionals are an integral part of the health care team, treating a wide range of vision problems, including many conditions with systemic and sight-threatening implications.

Nebraska’s Doctors of Optometry have four years of specialized, post-graduate, doctoral-level study on the eye and its systems, must pass a rigorous national licensing exam, and receive continuing education each year. Just as other healthcare professionals receive additional training related to new procedures, pharmaceuticals, and technology, LB 526 will assure completion of additional post-doctoral education by optometrists relative to this new authority.

For our patients, no matter where they live, LB526 will mean better access, reduced costs and more convenience for all Nebraskans. We look forward to better serving the healthcare needs of our state and welcome the opportunity for patients in Nebraska to get the same level of care from primary care optometrists that many other states already allow.