Are Americans victims of an eye-exam scam via optometrists, industry, & politics?


EXCERPT: . . . The ordeal led me to look into a fact that has puzzled me ever since I moved to the United States a dozen years ago. In every other country in which I’ve lived—Germany and Britain, France and Italy—it is far easier to buy glasses or contact lenses than it is here. In those countries, as in Peru, you can simply walk into an optician’s store and ask an employee to give you an eye test, likely free of charge. If you already know your strength, you can just tell them what you want. You can also buy contact lenses from the closest drugstore without having to talk to a single soul—no doctor’s prescription necessary.

So why does the United States require people who want to purchase something as simple as a curved piece of plastic to get a prescription, preceded by a costly medical exam? The standard argument in favor of the American status quo is that impaired vision may point to serious health problems that a new pair of glasses will neither treat nor heal. Compelling Americans to see an optometrist helps to ensure that the largest possible number of cases of progressive eye diseases will be caught at an early stage.

[...] But this argument rather begs the question. ... On the one hand, some number of Americans who visit an optometrist to get a new prescription will indeed discover that they have a serious condition that requires immediate care. On the other hand, it is likely that a much greater number keep wearing glasses that are too weak—or won’t wear glasses at all—because they want to avoid the cost, time, or stress of a visit to a doctor.

I have not been able to find any studies that credibly assess how this barrier affects Americans’ quality of life. But it’s reasonable to assume that it has an adverse impact on many people ... How many thousands of Americans go through life seeing less well than they might because they don’t have an up-to-date prescription?

[...] One possible reason for such strict vision-wear rules is that many people have a financial interest in this burdensome system. If Americans no longer needed to book appointments with optometrists to buy glasses or contacts, many optometrists would see their salaries cut, and some might go out of business altogether. Optometrists are also a source of revenue for opticians, from large chains like Specsavers to independent stores in malls and town centers across the United States. Since they often work on-site, they have an incentive to nudge their patients to buy the products on hand.

[...] American optometrists spend a lot of money on lobbying. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, for example, the AOA spent $1.8 million on lobbying and another $1.4 million on campaign contributions in 2016. And although the AOA was unsuccessful in its attempt to block the laws requiring optometrists to give patients a copy of their prescription, any attempt to remove the need for frequent office visits (the exact figure depends on whether you wear glasses or contacts, among other factors) is likely to meet with stiff resistance.

[...] Like the citizens of virtually every other country around the world, Americans should be allowed to buy any pair of glasses or set of contact lenses at a moment’s notice. ... Put Americans in charge of their own vision care, and abolish mandatory eye exams. (MORE - details)

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)