Recently, an article ran on the US News and World Report’s website based on OpOAAticianry Licensure in the United States.   This article, “Bringing the Effects of Occupational Licensing into Focus: Optician Licensing in the United States (article weblink),” written  by Anna Mills (George Mason University Graduate Student) and Edward J. Timmons (George Mason University Associate Professor) has the potential of placing the American Consumer at risk of eye health problems by advocating the elimination of opticianry licensure across the country.

Unfortunately, the flawed and inaccurate article has already been released and published.  The Opticians Association of America (OAA) immediately sent a response to the US News and World Report refuting the findings of this very flawed and questionable study.

The recent article published on your website entitled, “Bringing the Effects of Occupational Licensing into Focus: Optician Licensing in the United States” written by Anna Mills (George Mason University Graduate Student) and Edward J. Timmons (George Mason University Associate Professor) has the potential of placing the American Consumer at risk of eye health problems by advocating the elimination of opticianry licensure across the country.

The Opticians Association of America, which represents 23 state organizations and over 10,000 opticians across the country, was quite surprised that the U.S. News and World Report would choose to run a story on a study regarding the profession of opticianry, especially when the findings of the study contradict the authors’ own thesis and without enlisting comment from the actual profession of opticianry.

Mills and Timmons claim lobbying efforts on the part of professional opticianry organizations including the Opticians Association of America (OAA) have primarily focused on thwarting efforts by 1-800-Contacts to roll back individual state guidelines, which would give consumers access to their prescription information.  This statement could not be more untrue.  The Opticians Association of America fully supported the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act, which guarantees prescription releases to patients.

Mills and Timmons claim that empirical studies have shown that as the level of professional control increases, such as a requirement for supervision of opticians and licensure, the price of eyeglasses increases; however the study that was referenced was conducted in 1971.  What is even more alarming is that within their study Mills and Timmons contradict themselves.  While trying to prove the Quality of Service Argument, which cites data from 2014 on insurance premiums, the authors found that unlicensed states had higher premiums – “the average premium in unlicensed states is $14.34 compared with $14.16 in licensed states.” If unlicensed states have higher insurance premiums, how does opticianry licensure increase the cost of insurance for consumers?

Mills and Timmons also use malpractice insurance premiums to measure the quality of consumer service in licensed vs unlicensed states, arguing that if licensed states were safer for the consumer, then the malpractice insurance would be lower.  The insurance premium was the same price (of which only one company was quoted), so the authors assumed that the level of care must be the same in licensed vs unlicensed states.  Any medical doctor knows that the only determining factor in the cost of malpractice premiums is the medical malpractice laws and regulations in their given state and not their level of education or cost of licensure.  It is extremely alarming that presumably unbiased academic researchers can make the leap from correlation to causation without examining the medical malpractice laws and guidelines in every state.

Mills and Timmons’ summary shows that opticianry licensure increases the wages of opticians by only about 3%, which is most likely statistically negligent when accounting for a basic margin of error.  Further, the authors conveniently forget to mention how insurance premiums are less expensive in licensed states.

Mills and Timmons’ conclusion on the quality of service argument in licensed vs unlicensed states, which is that consumers would be better served by eliminating opticianry licensure simply due to the idea that malpractice premiums might be equivalent in licensed vs non-licensed states, completely lacks merit and has no basis in fact.  Mills and Timmons’ study does not even support their own conclusion.

It is unfortunate that the U.S. News and World Report would choose to publish the findings of a study where the authors’ contradict their own thesis especially when discussing a profession that dispenses a medical device to the American Consumer.  The Opticians Association of America is always available to provide comment, information and direction with regard to the profession of opticianry.

Sincerely,

Christopher M Allen, Executive Director,  OAA
Kris Pickford, Legislative Consultant, OAA