The Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, has transformed the healthcare landscape across America. Though not yet fully implemented, it is already changing the way we buy and access healthcare, mostly in negative ways. Premiums keep going up. Doctors are speeding up their retirements to avoid having to deal with the law. Its push to digitize our medical records may expose Americans to violations of our privacy, and even to misdiagnoses as doctors and nurses are forced to use templates rather than handwritten notes to describe the ailments patients present them.
ObamaCare is also creating chaos in how states deal with which medical personnel are allowed to perform different tasks. The Department of Health and Human Services essentially writes much of the law on the fly, and state legislatures and health departments find themselves regulating between the voluminous law’s many gaps. Chaos presents opportunities, and into those opportunities, some say, consortia of health practitioners are stepping, to take advantage.
Specifically, two groups — nurse practitioners and optometrists — are moving to increase their medical taskings to include many typically done by MDs, without obtaining the years of training that MDs obtain.
Taking the second group first, though most Americans don’t realize it, there is a vast difference in training between optometrists and ophthalmologists. Optometrists typically undergo four years of training to become certified. Some optometry schools do not even require a college degree. Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, must finish college, must finish medical school, and must finish additional internships, residency, and specialization study that can all add up to 12 to 15 years of training.
But optometry groups are moving in California and other states to take on the duties now performed by ophthalmologists and other medical doctors. Kentucky and Oklahoma are among the states that are set to conflate optometrists as if they are equally trained. Optometrist groups are even lobbying, which means donating to politicians, to enable themselves to become primary healthcare providers, monitoring blood pressure and many other conditions far afield of vision. This can and has led to problems for patients.