The Senate passed an amended House bill Thursday that could give optometrists the ability to prescribe medication and perform procedures that were previously prohibited to them.
The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee put a strike-all amendment earlier this week on House Bill 1302, which passed its originating chamber 90-24 on February 3.
The bill passed the Senate by a 47-5 margin and will go back to the House, which will have to approve the changes.
State Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said the strike-all was a compromise agreed upon by the optometrists and ophthalmologists.
The bill would allow optometrists, who are not medical doctors, to prescribe medications to treat diseases of the eye or eyelid. They will also be able to order laboratory tests but would not be allowed to inject or implant any medication into the eye itself.
Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists because they’re medical doctors who can perform surgical procedures and prescribe medication.
State Sen. David Parker, R-Olive Branch, is an optometrist and said present law leaves Mississippi behind neighboring states. He said that the limits on practice in present law convinced some of his optometry school classmates from Memphis to pursue opportunities outside the state.
He also said on the floor that the state avoided the contentious debates over scope of practice between optometrists and ophthalmologists that have plagued other states such as Arkansas.
Under this bill, optometrists who met the requirements would be able to use local anesthesia to perform some procedures such as removing foreign bodies in the eyelid or repairing an eyelid laceration.
They would also receive the right, if properly certified, to perform a laser surgery on an implant (not the eye itself) performed after cataract surgery to help a patient see clearly.