South Carolina Governor vetoes bill that sought to ban online eye exams

By Aditi Pai
Share

Update: Governor Haley's veto was overturned by an overwhelming vote from the state legislature. The Senate voted 39 to 3 to overide the veto while the house voted 98 to 1. Opternative has now ceased operations in South Carolina.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vetoed a bill earlier this year that would prevent South Carolina residents from obtaining a glasses or contact lens prescription based on an online eye exam.

The bill, called Eye Care Consumer Protection, was first introduced in January. In the latest version of the bill, it proposes that “a prescription for spectacles or contact lenses may not be based solely on the refractive eye error of the human eye or be generated by a kiosk”. A kiosk refers to an automated application or device that is used on a phone, computer, or internet-based device, which is used in-person or remotely to collect refractive data or other information.

“I am vetoing this bill because it uses health practice mandates to stifle competition for the benefit of a single industry, effectively banning eye care kiosks statewide,” Haley said in written remarks. “During my administration, South Carolina has expanded access to healthcare, including mental health services, to rural and underserved regions of our state using telemedicine. Unfortunately, a small group of eye care professionals is seeking to block new technologies that expand low-cost access to vision correction services.”

Haley added that advocates of the bill argue that kiosks pose a public health risk, which Haley said she disagrees with, explaining that users should still go to the doctor for comprehensive medical exams.

“Second optometrists argue that kiosks create an uneven playing field because licensed providers cannot take advantage of this technology and charge patients for its use in a medical practice,” she continued. “The answer to this problem is not to ban a new technology, but rather to expand its use. Send a bill to my desk that allows for the expanded use of automatic vision evaluation in all medical settings, and I will sign it.”

This bill would have prevented companies like Opternative, which offers a $40 eye exam, from operating in the state. Opternative is registered with the FDA as a Class 1 device. CEO Aaron Dallek told MobiHealthNews in February that the technology is "robust and validated".

Last month, Indiana passed a law that blocks companies like Opternative from offering prescriptions to Indiana residents, according to Chicago Tribune.

A few weeks later, the American Optometric Association penned a letter to the FDA asking that the agency impose stricter guidance on Opternative. In their 11-page missive, the organization argues that not only is the technology unproven, but it will lead patients to skip eye health exams and endanger their wellbeing.