Rip Off Doc: You are scheduled to come in tomorrow and use Crappy Vision Coverage, is that correct?
Sallie's Niece: Yes that's right.
Rip Off Doc: Well our records show that you were here in January of 2007 and you are only eligible for an appointment once every two years.
Sallie's Niece: Well I really need some new contact lenses, can I place an order for them?
Rip Off Doc: No, I'm afraid your prescription is only valid for one year.
Sallie's Niece: Alright well I need to come in for an exam then. How much is it gonna cost?
Rip Off Doc: It's $90 for just the exam.
Sallie's Niece: See ya next year!
I did a little digging and here's what I discovered.
The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act was passed by Congress in 2004 to broaden the consumer's access to contact lenses. It requires prescribers of contact lenses to give patients give patients a copy of their contact lens prescriptions at the end of a contact lens fitting, even if the patient doesn’t ask for it. You can then take that prescription around to another seller, including online sellers like 1-800-CONTACTS.
During the Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection subcommittee meeting, Robert L. Hubbard, Director of the Litigation Bureau at the New York (my home state) Department of Law, also a chairman of several task forces related to the legislation testified:
Unlike most physicians, eye care practitioners sell what they prescribe.
Thus, individual ECPs derive substantial revenue from the sale of
replacement contact lenses and have an economic incentive to
withhold prescriptions from customers to prevent consumers from
shopping for replacement lenses elsewhere.
In light of that incentive and the power of ECPs over prescriptions, the bill helps
give consumers what they need to make their own choices about
where to buy replacement contact lenses.
Congress was heavily lobbied by optometrists during its consideration of the
measure, and those able to read the fine print will discover that in 42 states,
optometrists can refuse to pass along a prescription if it is more than a year
old. The limit is two years in the other eight states.
Thus, while optometrists may have lost their grip on the sale of contact lenses, they have gained an annuity that will keep patients coming back once a year to renew their prescriptions. There are 36 million contact lens wearers in the U.S. At about $100 per exam, that's $3.6 billion in guaranteed revenue for the