Oklahoma voters will gather in November to decide whether eye care physicians will be allowed to house their businesses inside corporate-affiliated sites — like CVS, Walgreen's or Walmart.

Oklahoma voters will gather in November to decide whether eye care physicians will be allowed to house their businesses inside corporate-affiliated sites — like CVS, Walgreen's or Walmart.

There's a hot debate among some about whether optometrists should be able to practice their trade in such close proximity with large retailers.

Against

Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians (OAOP) backs Oklahomans Against 793, at no793.com, by supporting a link on its site at oaop.org.

No793 cites the proposal is all about corporate greed.

“Taking optometric physicians out of medical clinics and lowering the standard of medical care is bad for Oklahomans and bad for vision health,” the no793 website reads.

“Oklahoma has some of the strongest laws in the country to encourage safe, reliable and cost-effective vision care,” the site states. “As a result, we have talented optometrists operating in virtually every corner of the state.”

According to the website, rewriting those laws to fit Walmart's business model will make it harder to find high quality, affordable optometric services.

Dr. Jason Ellen, president-elect of the OAOP and a Tulsa-based optometrist, said, "my partners and I perform surgeries, diagnose and manage chronic eye diseases, and can detect life-threatening conditions." The right place to do that is a medical clinic, he said, not a gigantic grocery and hardware store.

“If Walmart gets their way, corporate management will reduce quality and increase prices. It's a lose-lose situation for my patients and for Oklahoma consumers."

In favor of

According to oklahomansforconsumerfreedom.com, Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom, an activist group in favor of the proposal, said passage of the state question will remove income and geographical restrictions, effectively allowing for the sale of prescription eyewear in stores like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, and granting optometrists the right to open practices in locations where they are currently barred.

Dr. Naheed Ahmad, president of Energeyes, a national nonprofit association representing optometrists who choose to practice in a corporate-affiliated environment, said Oklahoma patients receiving eye care in a retail setting will see the same high standards and quality of care that they receive in an independent optometrist’s office.

“We have the same qualifications and skills as all other optometrists and many of us practice the medical model,” he said. “Many of us have OCTs, retinal cameras and additional advanced instrumentation to care for our patients.”

Corporations do not dictate our patient care, he said which is why there is high patient satisfaction with the quality of eye care services patients receive in retail environments.

Ahmad also disputes allegations that the quality of care would deteriorate, should State Question 793 pass.

“SQ 793 will require optometrists practicing in retail settings to have exactly the same qualifications as those currently practicing throughout Oklahoma,” he said.

Locally

Local Ophthalmologist Dr. John Robinson, of Robinson Eye Institute, at 501 E. MacArthur, in Shawnee, said the state question hasn't really flown high on his radar.

“Most of what I do is handle eye disease,” he said. “It likely won't affect Ophthalmology very much here.”

He said there are two certified opticians in his office that could potentially be more affected by the measure, but he said there are so few of those in the area there shouldn't be a problem.

“Most certified opticians are concentrated in Oklahoma City or Tulsa,” he said. “There aren't many here.”

Robinson also said he hasn't really heard much in the way of comments by fellow colleagues, so he isn't sensing local alarm by the proposal.

Watch for updates.