by Niko Corley
Director of Legislative Affairs, Medical Association of the State of Alabama
The past two years have seen a couple of states pass legislation to lower eye surgery standards by allowing optometrists to perform laser and scalper surgery and eyeball injections. In Alabama however, the Alabama Academy of Ophthalmology (ALAO), the Medical Association of Alabama, the Alabama Dermatology Society (ADS) and other medical specialties have so far successfully pushed back against such inappropriate scope expansion attempts. Together, we are stronger.
While the total number of states having granted optometrists surgical privileges is a small minority at less than 10, their having done so still raises concerns for anyone who supports high standards for surgical care. Medical school is important and medical residency is important, as together they prepare physicians to best care for patients as safely as possible. As we see each year with the various “scope creep” proposals however, not a year goes by that some group or another (usually several) don’t propose legislation to grant non-physicians who haven’t graduated medical school or medical residency de facto medical degrees via legislative act.
But time and again, we’ve seen the best way to combat scope creep is locally. When individual physicians seek to inform their Senator and Representative of the impact of a particular piece of legislation, most often those men and women will listen. More physicians became involved this year than we have seen in the past and that is exciting to see! Now we must keep up that momentum moving forward.
Each physician only has one Senator and one Representative in the State Legislature. If a physician doesn’t know his or her local legislators, it is important he or she do so, and do so now. Getting to know just two more people is not much to ask, even of physicians, especially given those two people vote on matters directly affecting medicine and patient care.
The collective, collaborative efforts of our medical societies can continue to protect patients so long as we continue to increase physician outreach to legislators. You are your patients’ best defense. There just is no replacement for grassroots contacts from constituents, especially physicians, as few legislators are experts in healthcare matters and so they welcome feedback (to connect with your local legislators and begin to foster a relationship, email the author of this article).
As the 2021 session comes to a close, our work is only beginning. We must build on the tremendous work our allied organizations have already put in the past few years and amplify the voices of physicians and patients concerned about the future of care delivery. Together, we can continue protecting patients and defending high standards for eye care in Alabama for years to come.
Contact Niko Corley at firstname.lastname@example.org.