The Kids Aren’t OK: Oklahoma Vision Care Rules Make Families Pay to Pad Special Interest Pockets

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018, 1:33 PM PERMALINK

It’s hard to imagine any public official signing on to a state law that hurts low-income families and students, just to benefit a powerful special interest. Yet, that is the situation in Oklahoma.

The state has a long-standing, and long-stupid, regulatory scheme that bars retailers from selling glasses or contact lenses unless that piece of their business makes up more than 50 percent of sales. The state also demands optometrist offices be separate from retail.

This means stores like Costco, or Walmart, that offer a range of products and services, including providing eye exams and eyewear in one location, cannot do so in Oklahoma.

What possible reason could there be for denying Oklahomans the same access to affordable eye exams and eye wear that residents of 48 other states enjoy? It’s what a powerful special interest lobby wants.

The state’s rules are designed to keep families jumping through hoops and forking over more of their hard-earned paychecks to the optometrist lobby.

The people who pay the highest price for this are low-income families who cannot afford vision care for their children. They are effectively denied access to eye exams and eyewear.

Students who cannot see properly fall behind, which can have negative consequences that impact the rest of their lives. This is no small issue…

A piece by Gwendolyn Caldwell with Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom points out that 61 percent of Oklahoma students come from low-income families, showing just how many Oklahomans are at risk from the state’s terrible vision care regulations.

On top of that, the Nation’s Report Card found “Oklahoma students lost ground in reading proficiency in the past two years”. Certainly, the optometrist regulations aren't the only cause of this, but they definitely hurt at a time students need all the help they can get.

These laws aren’t just barriers for retailers, they are barriers to a brighter future for Oklahoma’s students.

It’s no wonder people are fed up. There is a push for a ballot initiative that would reform the state’s unaffordable, abusive rules on optometry and eyewear. Oklahomans should decide on this, not Oklahoma City special interests.

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