Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission Encourage Massachusetts to Consider Expanding Treatment Options for Glaucoma
Agencies Submit Joint Statement Regarding Proposed Legislation Addressing Glaucoma Care by Optometrists in Massachusetts
The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued a joint statement encouraging the Massachusetts legislature to consider expanding the services that optometrists can provide to glaucoma patients. The statement describes the potential benefits to patients of enhanced competition among glaucoma care providers, including greater access to timely and cost competitive care. It recommends that the legislature only maintain restrictions on the ability of optometrists to treat glaucoma that are necessary to ensure patient health and safety.
The joint statement is in response to a request by Massachusetts State Representative Bradley H. Jones for views on the possible competitive effects of Massachusetts House Bill 1973 (HB 1973), which would expand the scope of practice for optometrists in Massachusetts and permit them to treat glaucoma and other optical diseases.
“Patients suffering from glaucoma – which affects 2.7 million Americans nation-wide – deserve safe, effective and affordable treatment options,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “As our statement explains, increasing competition among glaucoma care providers in Massachusetts, consistent with patient safety, can help provide greater access to care that is also more timely and cost competitive.”
The agencies’ comments are limited to HB 1973’s effect on glaucoma care. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, but early diagnosis and managed treatment offer protection against the risk of vision loss or blindness. With respect to glaucoma care, HB 1973 would allow optometrists in Massachusetts – like optometrists in other states – to treat glaucoma patients using medications, subject to certain training and referral requirements. Providing optometrists a role in glaucoma care, with conditions the legislature finds appropriate to ensure patient safety, has the potential benefit to bring the benefits of competition to Massachusetts health care consumers.