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General Assembly Extends Medical Practice Act, Thwarts Scope of Practice Expansion for Optometrists
Posted on: 12/7/2016

Last week’s fall veto session brought lawmakers back to Springfield for the final opportunity of the calendar year to pass legislation. Here are highlights that showcase how your legislative team advanced physician priorities to protect you and your patients, while battling against ill-conceived policies.

The General Assembly cleared Senate Bill 870, which would extend the Medical Practice Act through Dec. 31, 2017. This Act is an essential law that governs the practice of medicine in our state. Without it, any person – regardless of qualification – could practice medicine in Illinois without restriction or penalty.

Senate Bill 870 would also extend the Illinois Optometric Act for 10 years and includes changes that were agreed to by the Illinois Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, and ISMS:

  • The current optometry scope of practice is retained with two changes in prescriptive authority:
    1. Diamox prescription authority is extended from 72 hours to 30 days.
    2. Oral steroids can be prescribed for up to 7 days.

  • A task force is created to address the development of educational standards for advanced optometric procedures (use of lasers are explicitly prohibited):
    1. Members of the task force will be representatives from the Illinois Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, ISMS, the Illinois Optometric Association, and the Illinois College of Optometry.
    2. The agreed upon educational standards will be proposed by the task force no later than Sept. 1, 2017.
    3. By Jan. 1, 2018, any agreement of the task force will be proposed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) either by rule or by draft legislation.

Provisions originally introduced by IDFPR, and supported by the College of Optometry and the Illinois Optometric Association would have allowed optometrists to perform “minor” surgeries and administer injections around the eye, without consideration of whether optometrists have the appropriate education and training to perform such services. ISMS joined the Illinois Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons in opposing this proposal, which was not included in the final legislation.

The legislation now awaits Governor Rauner’s signature; he is expected to sign the measure.

Stay tuned for a 2016 legislative wrap-up in a future edition of Physician Advocate.

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