New Hampshire optometrists, ophthalmologists continue fight over 'scope of practice' expansion

A bill hearing is underway in the New Hampshire Legislature that would allow optometrists to perform certain minor surgeries in the state, according to a May 10 report from ABC affiliate WMUR.

Senate Bill 440, which would change the name of the profession's board to the board of optometry, definitionally change the "practice of optometry," and modify prescription and surgical authorities of optometrists in the state, was first proposed in January. 

It would also allow optometrists to perform some minor surgeries, including laser surgery of the eyeball and scalpel surgery of the eyelid. Currently, only ophthalmologists are able to perform those procedures. 

While some lawmakers believe that passing the bill would improve access to eye care, especially in rural and underserved areas, others believe that optometrists lack the proper education and training necessary. If the bill were to become law, state representatives say there would be additional guardrails and training requirements put in place for optometrists who want to perform such surgeries.

"This is not letting all the optometrists loose as soon as this goes into effect to do whatever they want," state Rep. Tony Lekas told WMUR. 

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is urging optometrists and ophthalmologists to reach a compromise, according to the report. 

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