Idaho lawmakers push to allow optometrists to perform 3 surgeries

A new bill would allow specially trained optometrists in Idaho to perform three kinds of laser surgeries, ABC affiliate KIVI-TV reported March 3. 

If approved, optometrists would be allowed to receive special training for these procedures, including YAG laser capsulotomies. 

Opponents to the bill say the procedures should be performed only by an eye surgeon, for safety reasons. 

"This bill would allow the person who is not an eye surgeon [to] do surgery," Daniel Gealy, MD, who practices at Surgery Center of Idaho in Meridian, told the news outlet. "I think that's a really bad idea. I think it takes a lot of highly specialized training to safely do laser surgery on people's eyes."

Proponents of the bill say allowing optometrists to perform these procedures would help with access to care and emphasized that optometrists would be trained. 

"The optometrist actually has to perform this skill right there in front of a group of examiners [in] order to pass the exam," Lauren Huber, OD, who practices at SixOneSix Vision Center in Eagle, Idaho, told KIVI-TV. "There is a real access to care issue here in the state of Idaho. Not only in the rural areas but in the Treasure Valley as well."

Dr. Huber also said other states have allowed optometrists to perform these procedures dating to 1998 and that 110,000 surgeries have been executed safely. 

The legislation is due for its third Senate reading.

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