Are you thinking of practicing optometry in Alabama, home of the UAB School of Optometry? The optometric scope of practice in Alabama has come a long way, thanks to the Alabama Optometric Association, the American Optometric Association, and advocates of the profession. Along with the 1975 legislation that allowed optometrists in Alabama to use diagnostic agents, the most important legislation to date regarding practicing optometry in Alabama was the 1995 Therapeutics Law. This law took about 15 years of lobbying efforts to pass and transformed optometry in Alabama from not just providing vision care but also allowing optometrists to treat eye disease. The 1995 Therapeutics Law helped provide optometrists with many of the rights listed below.
In Alabama, optometrists are allowed to:
- Prescribe oral medications such as anti-infectives (i.e. for bacterial, viral, or fungal infections)
- Prescribe Schedule III, IV, and V controlled narcotic drugs
- Prescribe oral steroids
- Treat glaucoma with topical and oral drugs
- Use injectables to counter anaphylaxis
- Provide co-management (OD/MD) options to their patients, often following procedures such as cataract surgery
- Perform minor surgical procedures such as eyelash epilation, foreign body removal, punctual occlusion, and dilation and irrigation
In Alabama, optometrists are not allowed to:
- Perform major surgical procedures or laser procedures such as cataract surgery, LASIK, or YAG
- Prescribe Schedule I and II controlled narcotic drugs
- Use injectables for non-anaphylaxis, including drugs used for the diagnosis and treatment of retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration
The Alabama Optometric Association’s most recent victory for the optometric scope of practice in Alabama came in early June 2015, with the passing of SB-270. SB-270 is a non-covered services bill that made it illegal for vision plans to dictate what eye care providers charge for services that said vision plans do not cover. Before this bill was passed, vision plans were allowed to require optometrists to offer discounts on products and services that the vision plans did not provide reimbursement for. Vision plans are now also prohibited by SB-270 from forcing optometrists to use the lab set forth by the vision plan. SB-270 in no way affected any services and/or materials that the vision plan actually covers as a part of benefit packages. Alabama is the 8th state to pass a non-covered services bill.
For more information on the current optometric scope of practice in other states, check out other articles in our optometry legislative series. Consider attending the annual AOA-PAC Congressional Advocacy Conference in April to have the opportunity to speak with legislators and advocate for our profession!