cn|2 Poll: Few in Ky. support optometrist bill that was first to pass legislature in '11

03/02/2011 06:48 PM

(UPDATED) The first bill to be signed into law in the 2011 General Assembly didn’t go over well with a majority of Kentuckians surveyed in the cn|2 Poll.

And it wasn’t by an eyelash.

Just 15% of the 804 respondents in this week’s cn|2 Poll said they agreed with the proposal that now allows optometrists to perform certain eye surgeries. Up to the passage of Senate Bill 110, optometrists were licensed to perform eye exams, diagnose problems and prescribe corrective lenses.

S.B. 110, which Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law last week, allows optometrists to perform certain surgeries including several using lasers. That had been the domain of ophthalmologists — eye doctors who have medical degrees.

In the cn|2 Poll, 79% of respondents said any surgery should be performed by ophthalmologists.

Here’s how the question was asked:

_A bill recently passed the legislature dealing with eye doctors. It would allow optometrists, who are professionally trained and licensed to examine the eyes and diagnose problems, to perform certain surgeries. Currently, all surgeries are performed by ophthalmologists with medical degrees that deal with the diseases of the eye. Which statement is closest to your view?

  • Yes, optometrists should be allowed to perform certain surgeries
  • No, any surgeries should be done by ophthalmologists with medical degrees_

Carla Blanton, a consultant working with the optometrists, took issue with the wording of the question — specifically that “all surgeries” had been performed by ophthalmologists. She said optometrists have been allowed to perform some procedures, including removing foreign bodies from the cornea, removing tear duct obstructions and removing eyelashes using epilation forceps.

“These are considered surgeries as classed in the surgical section of the … Current Procedural Terminology, per the American Medical Association,” she said in a statement.

The new law passed last month allows optometrists to perform other surgeries, including certain ones using lasers that optometrists had not previously been permitted to do.

The cn|2 Poll was conducted Feb. 28 and March 1 by live interviewers from Braun Research of New Jersey. Interviewers contacted likely voters in the 2011 election — those who voted in both gubernatorial elections of 2003 and 2007, as well as younger voters under 24 who said they planned to vote this fall.

Click here to read the details and cross-tabulations of the poll results for legislative issues:

statewide legislative issues 3-2.pdf [881.07KB]

The bill quickly flew through the legislative process. After being introduced on Feb. 7, it won Senate approval on Feb. 11 and passed the House on Feb. 18. A week after that, Beshear signed it into law.

Pure Politics featured a debate between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist on the Feb. 18 program.

In that segment, Optometrist Ben Gaddie said his group of eye doctors pushed for the change to allow more access to eye surgeries, particularly for rural Kentuckians.
He said that way, they wouldn’t have to drive as far to ophthalmologists, who are clustered in more urban areas.

But the cn|2 Poll results showed the most opposition to optometrists performing surgeries came in the most rural areas. In the 1st Congressional District covering western and southern Kentucky, nearly 87% said surgeries should be performed by an ophthalmologist and nearly 84% said that in the 5th Congressional District in eastern Kentucky.

The only area of the state in which more than 20% of respondents sided with the optometrists was in the 4th Congressional District in Northern Kentucky.

(This post was updated March 6 with the statements by Blanton, the consultant for the optometrists.)

- Ryan Alessi


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