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Eye Exam Legislation Before State Lawmakers -- Again

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The wrangling over a controversial eye exam requirement won't go away. Lawmakers repealed the law, but now a new version includes changes that could sway the opinion of opponents.

The controversy came into focus when House Speaker Jim Black, an optometrist, quietly stuck a provision in last year's budget requiring every child entering kindergarten undergo comprehensive eye exams at parents' expense. The complaints came flooding in from school, medical, and child advocacy groups. Led by the Senate, the measure was repealed this session.

"Experts in the field tell me this is not necessary to require every child entering school to have that particular exam," said Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake.

Not deterred, Rep. Linda Coleman revived an overhauled version of the bill.

"It was a good bill," said Coleman. "The politics got in the way."

Connie Crowe of Edgecombe County told lawmakers Thursday that a family doctor's screening missed her daughter Payton's vision problems.

"I have great concerns about the process the pediatricians are using right now," said Crowe.

The new bill would enhance screenings already going on with pediatricians and school nurses. Identified problems would automatically be referred to eye professionals.

The biggest change in the new eye care bill is that children cannot be excluded from school if they don't undergo the exams. Moreover, supporters claim insurance and a private foundation will cover the costs.

"This will not have to come out of the parents' pocket," said Coleman.


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