For years, ophthalmologists and optometrists have been on opposite sides of a proposal to give optometrists greater prescribing authority in Florida.  However, it appears that the sides have finally reached a compromise, and now the Florida Legislature is poised to expand optometrists’ scope of practice.

Optometrists in Florida already have the authority to prescribe topical ocular medications, but bills in the Legislature expand that authority to oral ocular drugs.  Optometrists would be required to complete a 20-hour training course and report adverse incidents, and the Florida Board of Optometry would be tasked with developing a formulary of medicines that may be prescribed.  Also, the bills authorize co-management arrangements whereby, in some cases, post-operative patients will receive care from optometrists instead of the physician who performed the surgery, unless the patient objects.

Companion bills HB 239 and SB 0278 are moving through the Legislature with few lawmakers voting against them so far.  The full Florida House passed its version with unanimous assent on March 22.  In the Florida Senate, the bill has passed three committee stops with limited opposition.  The bill has not yet reached the Senate floor, but it is likely to pass when it does.  To view the bill text, search for the bill numbers on the House and Senate websites.

The Florida Senate voted unanimously in favor of the bill on April 4.  Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law on April 19, 2013.  View the final bill text here.