Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann / US Air Force

House lawmakers are wrangling over whether to allow optometrists to perform procedures traditionally reserved for ophthalmologists.  The long-standing fight is tied up in questions of access and professional scope. 

Florida’s optometrists now have more authority in prescribing medications under a bill signed into law Monday. The new law brings a decades-long battle between optometrists and ophthalmologists to a close.

Optometrists can now prescribe more medications. But there are limits on types of meds they can give. Judi Spann represents the ophthalmologists, which pushed for the limits. She says the issue has flown under the radar for most Floridians, because there’s confusion between what the two groups do.                        

Kaiser Family Foundation

The nation’s healthcare system is changing. In the next few years, under the federal healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, more people will gain access to health insurance. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they will gain access to healthcare. And that’s what’s driving many of fights between different healthcare professionals over the kinds of services they can offer.

Some Florida healthcare providers are pushing lawmakers to make changes that would allow them to offer more services to patients. But  other physician groups are concerned that the move could result in worse care for consumers.

An almost 40-year old scuffle between two kinds of eye care professionals could be coming close to an end. But, as Sascha Cordner reports, despite passage of a bill that could do so, opponents say ending the war at the cost of limiting the amount of legitimate medical malpractice claims is not the way to do it.

It’s an ongoing dispute known as the “eyeball wars” between ophthalmologists and optometrists. Both professions deal with eye care, but there’s one difference:

Ophthalmologists are medical doctors, while optometrists are not.