Alva Review-Courier -

By Kat Lunn 

What Walmart, your local optometrist, and State Question 793 have to do with you

 

September 26, 2018



State Question (SQ) 793 will affect many Oklahomans and businesses if it is passed in November. People like Dr. Troy L. Smith, OD, of Alva, who has served northwest Oklahoma and southwest Kansas for over 30 years, are campaigning against the SQ with the idea, "Don't be fooled." If you really want to know the best thing for our state, ask a local eye doctor what they think of SQ 793.

What Is SQ 793?

Here is a direct quote taken from http://www.ok.gov about SQ 793: "This measure adds a new Section 3 to Article 20 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Under the new Section, no law shall infringe on optometrists' or opticians' ability to practice within a retail mercantile establishment, discriminate against optometrists or opticians based on the location of their practice, or require external entrances for optometric offices within retail mercantile establishments. No law shall infringe on retail mercantile establishments' ability to sell prescription optical goods and services. The Section allows the Legislature to restrict optometrists from performing surgeries within retail mercantile establishments, limit the number of locations at which an optometrist may practice, maintain optometric licensing requirements, require optometric offices to be in a separate room of a retail mercantile establishment, and impose health and safety standards. It does not prohibit optometrists and opticians from agreeing with retail mercantile establishments to limit their practice. Laws conflicting with this Section are void. The Section defines "laws," "optometrist," "optician," "optical goods and services," and "retail mercantile establishment."

What It Means

Dr. Smith pointed out that SQ 793 did not come from the people, but as a petition initiative from Walmart. Major contributors to Yes On 793 are Walmart and Costco.

The Yes On 793 website (YesOn793.com) says, "It is the right thing to do for families and children. Oklahomans should have more options when it comes to the vision needs of their families. Voting yes would give more school-aged children access to affordable eye care. We deserve the same choice as other Americans. We're one of only three states left that have laws that control sales of optical goods and services."

Dr. Troy said that really what Walmart doesn't like is the state law that prohibits "retailers from selling prescription eyewear and ophthalmic material, unless it comprises 51 percent of their income." In other words, current Oklahoma law says that 51 percent of an ophthalmic retailer's income must come from eyewear/material sales. Of course, if Walmart sold eyewear in Oklahoma, under the current laws half of their income must come from the optometry side of things, which would not happen.

Dr. Smith gave an example of when Walmart first put an optical service in its store in Emporia, Kansas. There were seven optometry practices in Emporia. Walmart, trying to bring customers in, did their initiation special (also known as "market share special"). Buy a frame and you'd receive an exam and lenses for free. Walmart ran this special until there were only three optometrist practices left, then their prices went back to normal. To reiterate, Walmart was losing money on every customer they saw, in order to gain a monopoly in the market.

This addition to the Oklahoma Constitution appears to promote a free market and more access to healthcare; opponents think otherwise.

The Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians President Dr. Michelle Welch said this: "If we lower the bar and make our eye doctors Walmart employees, I'm afraid Oklahoma will no longer be a destination-state for vision care professionals. What we will see is less of a commitment to excellence, fewer people interested in practicing optometry, and worse outcomes for patients. Our current laws were designed to promote good health. It would be a tragedy if we rewrote them to promote stronger sales for Walmart instead."

End the end, voters really must consider what is more important, health or big business?

 

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