5-25-16 – Government Doesn’t Have to Be Stupid and Destructive

by Rob Roper

Many states are considering a ban on a new technology that provides a cheaper, more convenient way for eye patients to take an exam that can determine their prescriptions using either a smartphone or computer, and deliver a prescription within 24 hours. Optometrists are not thrilled, and their Luddite lobby wants to kill this amazing innovation.

The technology is called Optermative. It is not meant or billed to be a replacement for an eye-health exam. It takes just 25 minutes and costs just $40 for glasses or contact lenses or $60 for both.

An article about Opternative describes the process as follows: “You follow the dictated and written instructions to cover one eye at a time, look at your computer screen, and answer corresponding visual acuity questions on your phone. How many lines are in a symbol? Which of these symbols is a different shape from the rest? What colored number is in the surrounding dots? For some tests, you’ll give your shoe size and be told to walk a certain number of heel-to-toe steps away from your computer before answering.”

It’s quicker, cheaper, more convenient, and just as accurate as a traditional exam for the consumer… so naturally governments are scrambling to ban the technology to placate an entrenched special interest. Indiana has outlawed the test and Michigan sent the company a cease-and-desist order. Georgia is the latest state to ban the technology.

But when similar legislation reached South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley’s desk, she vetoed it with the message, “The answer to this problem is not to ban a new technology, but rather expand its use. Send a bill to my desk that allows the expanded use of automatic vision evaluations in all medical settings, and I will sign it.” Good for her!

As Opternative’s website says, “Eye exams for glasses and contact prescriptions are just the beginning. We envision a world where technology allows patients and doctors to connect to make all aspects of vision care more convenient, accessible and even fun!”

Indeed, this technology, like all innovations in the hands of entrepreneurs in a free market, is a stepping stone. And, at a time when we need to find cheaper ways of delivering healthcare, should be celebrated and encouraged. Let’s hope governments (thinking Vermont here) will help rather than hinder these advancements — by staying the heck out of the way!

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ralph Colin May 29, 2016 at 6:23 pm

Re: the final sentence of your commentary:

They should, but they won’t. They can’t miss another opportunity to screw up
anything relating to progress UNLESS one of their major benefactors can make
a quick and easy buck out of it.


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