Feds examine eye doctors

Eye doctors are coming under the microscope from federal regulators.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering replacing long-standing rules that govern how eye doctors prescribe glasses and contact lenses.

The possible changes to the rules come as part of a regulatory review by the agency.

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The current rules are intended to protect the health of patients’ eyes while giving them more opportunities to bargain-hunt for better prices.

Eye doctors can only sell glasses and contacts to patients after they have conducted an eye exam or verified a prescription from another eye doctor. This prevents eye doctors from selling the wrong prescription to their patients.

Eye doctors are also required to provide patients with a copy of their prescription after their exam and before they purchase corrective lenses. Patients can take the prescription to other eye doctors as they search for the best price.

This was a problem back in the 1970s. The FTC found that "many consumers were being deterred from comparison shopping for eyeglasses because eye care practitioners refused to release prescriptions, even upon a patient’s request, or charged an additional fee for release of a prescription."

"The contact lens rule is intended to facilitate the ability of consumers to comparison shop for contact lenses while ensuring that contact lenses are sold only in accordance with a valid prescription," the agency wrote.

The FTC is reviewing the decades-old rules to determine whether changes are needed. The public has until Oct. 26 to comment.