Bill restricts discounts insurers can require optometrists to offer

Posted June 3, 2014

— The House on Tuesday passed a measure that would prohibit insurers from requiring that optometrists offer discounts on eye wear and other materials to insurance customers if those services aren't covered by those patients' vision care policy. 

"We're not talking about insurance here," said Rep. Tom Murry, R-Wake. Rather, he said such contract provisions were a way for insurers to act like they are providing a service without incurring any cost. 

"For folks in their network, you get a discount," Murry said. "Everybody else pays more than the people inside the network. We're trying to fix that with this legislation."

Murry and other supporters of the bill said it would lower insurance costs for everyone, but a few lawmakers said they worried they were outlawing a benefit that people who have insurance now enjoy.

"I wonder if we're not being dragged into what boils down to a contract dispute between optometrists and insurance providers," said Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln.

Saine said that business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses oppose the measure.

Also opposed is the State Employees Association of North Carolina, the group that represents many state workers. The measure "serves no public policy purpose other than to guarantee excess profits to some optometrists, while adversely impacting North Carolina‚Äôs citizens and businesses," said Chuck Stone, the group's health care lobbyist, in a post on SEANC's website

Some opponents argued that the bill represents an insurance mandate, but backers say it is the opposite, a measure that keeps insurers from imposing mandates on others.

"If anything, it will put downward pressure on the price of vision insurance plans," said Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash. 

The bill passed the House 94-19. It has already cleared the Senate once but must return for senators to concur with changes made by House members.


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  • common tater Jun 5, 2014

    I agree this doesn't seem like a thing that needs a law. If they optometrists feel the need for a change, they should band together and push back on the insurance companies. Isn't this the same with anything medical, where there's a lower cost for those insured even if the insurance company isn't paying (ie before deductables are met)?

  • Redeker Jun 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I think you mean more regulation and less free market.

    The legislature is RESTRICTING what two private entities can do in their contract. Prior to these new regulations, the discounts were negotiated between the eye care provider and the eye care insurer. As part of those deals, some insurers were requiring the discounts. Those discounts are now restricted by this measure.

  • iopsyc Jun 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Only one I am aware of is Senator David Curtis. He's an Optometrist and owner of Carolina Eye Care.

  • lem07 Jun 4, 2014

    Score one for less regulation and free market.

  • Eq Videri Jun 3, 2014
    user avatar

    House Speaker Jim Black lives!

    What is it with ambitious politicians from The Great State of Mecklenburg?

  • Matt Wood Jun 3, 2014
    user avatar

    Wouldn't this only serve to drive up insurance costs as the insurance would have to start paying for the discounted services in order to keep their customers happy? Either that, or the consumers start having to pay more to the optometrist. In both cases, the consumer pays more and the optometrists make more. Who in the GA is an optometrist or has close ties in that industry?