Home News FTC Announces Final Eyeglass Rule

FTC Announces Final Eyeglass Rule

Image by © Duane Osborn/Somos Images/Corbis

On Thursday, June 27, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced final updates to its Ophthalmic Practice Rules, known as the Eyeglass Rule aimed at promoting competition and consumer choice. The FTC states, “The updates are designed to increase compliance with the rule’s longstanding requirement that eye doctors (ophthalmologists and optometrists) provide patients with a free copy of their prescription immediately following a refractive eye exam.

“The revised rule requires that in certain circumstances, prescribers must request a patient’s signature confirming they received their prescription, and prescribers must keep a record of that confirmation for at least three years.”

KEY ELEMENTS

Prescribers who “have a financial interest in selling prescription eyewear” cannot require that patients buy eyeglasses before providing them with a copy of their prescription, place a liability waiver on the prescription, require patients to sign a waiver in order to receive their prescription, or require that patients pay an additional fee in exchange for a copy of their prescription. Prescribers also cannot refuse to perform an eye exam unless the patient buys eyeglasses, contact lenses, or other ophthalmic goods from them, the release states.

The revisions address what the FTC says are gaps in the system. “In response to consumer complaints over the past several years, the FTC has sent warning letters to prescribers reminding them that they must provide patients with prescriptions at the end of an exam and cannot charge a fee or require eyeglass purchase for prescription release. But even so, surveys of consumers have repeatedly found that many consumers do not automatically receive their prescription following each refractive eye exam.”

The key elements of the revision require that prescribers will provide the Rx, request that patients sign a statement confirming they received it and keep this record for at least three years.

The changes announced today require that prescribers, after providing the prescription, request that their patients sign a statement confirming they received their prescription and keep a record of such confirmation for at least three years. These new confirmation requirements—which mostly mirror those already in place for contact lens prescriptions—only apply to optometrists and ophthalmologists who have a financial interest in selling prescription eyewear.

OTHER CHANGES

  • Prescribers may provide patients–who verifiably affirm consent–with a digital copy
  • The prescription must be provided immediately after the exam is completed, whether the Rx is paper copy or digital. Patients must have their prescription before any offer to sell them eyewear is made.
  • The rule clarifies that presentation of proof of insurance coverage shall be deemed to be a payment for the purpose of determining when a prescription must be provided.
  • The rule changes the term “eye examination” to “refractive eye examination” throughout the text and emphasizes the need for prescribers to educate consumers that there can be a difference between an eye health examination and a refractive eye examination. This is because the automatic release of prescriptions is only required following a refractive eye examination.

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