I spoke with a surgeon who teaches at a major southern university this week on the subject of how ObamaCare is enabling the blurring of lines between eye doctors.
“It is bringing massive, sweeping changes in how health care is delivered and paid for. Optometrists want to be equal to medical doctors. They are positioning themselves to expand their scope” into primary care delivery and even surgery.
“You do not want people who are not trained” in medical procedures to perform them, the surgeon told me. “But optometry schools are positioning themselves to be on a par with medical doctors. To be primary care physicians. Optometrists are positioning themselves to be able to charge as much for services as a medical doctor.”
The fees charged are key to the story. If optometrists and nurse practitioners can get states to see them on a par with MDs, they can charge fees on a par with MDs, and they can expand their practices to take on revenue-generating services that most states do not currently allow them to perform.
“They just don’t know what they don’t know,” the surgeon told me. “They have less training, which will end up costing us more” in health care. How? More highly trained medical doctors with more experience will tend to order less lab testing than less-trained and experienced people will. More testing means more cost. And along with that increased cost, less training will lead to more errors.
Dr. [David] Parke’s experience included treating a man whose “skin tag” was excised by an optometrist. Nine months later the patient came to the university medical center with an invasive, substantive squamous cell carcinoma that required a massive reconstructive surgery. “We asked the patient, ‘Why’d you let him do that?’ He replied, ‘Well he’s a doctor, he had on a white coat and he said he could.’”
In another case, an elderly patient with severe end-stage glaucoma could only be controlled surgically through a technique called filtering blebs. “She went to an optometrist who said to the patient, ‘Mrs. Jones, you have cysts on your eyes, I should take care of those now,’ and he proceeded to excise them, completely undoing the surgery.”
“In the end it scares me, quite frankly,” says Dr. Parke.
The surgeon I spoke with added: “They want to cut on eyelids and they want to use needles to inject in and around the eye. They want to manage complex disorders of the eye. They want to prescribe systemic medications like anti-viral oral medications for viruses, specifically for shingles, which people can get in their eye and can require corneal specialists. But once again, they haven’t seen those kind of patients, they haven’t managed those kinds of patients. You can’t do a refresher course when you haven’t had the basic course.” The surgeon added that less-trained doctors and nurse practitioners can end up removing objects that should be biopsied for cancer, but due to a lack of training, no biopsy is done.