Eye to Eye

Battle lines are forming in Raleigh. But it’s not what you think.

The ophthalmologists and optometrists are having a turf battle. While a clash of eye docs may not raise your pulse, it does open up a secret world to public view.

Here’s the broad picture: Optometrists want to expand their practice into things only ophthalmologists now do – involving needles and lasers around the eyes. They say that, in some communities, optometrists are the only available treatment specialists. That’s true.

Ophthalmologists say they have more training and can do those things better, and no matter where you live, if you drive far enough, there is a medical doctor available. That’s true, too.

If you are wondering why the state department that supervises these two boards can’t resolve the problem…well, that is the problem. There is no state department that supervises North Carolina’s 55 occupational licensing boards.  In our state, each of those 55 boards report directly to 170 part-time legislators, who have limited medical training.

Which amounts to no supervision at all.

Which is one of the issues raised by the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago when NC became the poster child for maverick licensing boards who, at times, use the power granted them by the state to limit competition.

In fact, most people in NC who need a state license are going to pay more for it than people in our neighboring states, like VA and SC. Which adds up to a burden on consumers who ultimately pay the bills.

To be clear, I’m looking to avoid a bruhaha. Not start one. There is enough conflict in government already. Hopefully, a ‘diplomatic mission’ – and the specter of a little active supervision – can bring the ophthalmologists and optometrists together before their debate gets too heated.

Leave a Reply