In a recent op-ed at the Washington Times, Newt Gingrich strongly cast a negative light upon Georgia House Bill 775. The bill would end access to an innovative technology that allows Georgians to receive a prescription for eyeglasses or contacts from a physician via an online eye exam.
The substitute bill passed both the House (155-0) and the Senate (47-3) and awaits action from the Governor. HB 775 was sponsored by Earl Ehrhart (R, HD36) and Rules Chairman John Meadows (R, HD5) in the House and Renee Unterman (R, SD45) in the Senate.
The interesting part? The bill impacts exactly one firm: Opternative. The Chicago-based company is currently the only online refraction exam technology company in existence.
Opternative, much like Uber or Lyft, provides a disruptive service that consumers may consider as an alternative to an optometrist’s office visit. The company does not accept insurance but has chosen to charge a $40 flat fee to provide its patients a prescription within 24 hours of the online exam.
Despite Opternative’s technology being legal in 46 states upon the company’s founding in July, 2015, Georgia seems prepared to become the first state to actively ban the company from serving its citizens.
Consumers in Georgia can currently decide for themselves whether the service would be beneficial to them or not, but the Georgia legislature has voted to take that choice from them on July 1.
I had an opportunity yesterday afternoon to speak with Aaron Dallek, CEO of Opternative. He shared:
“Voting against HB 775 represented a huge opportunity for Georgia to show that it is a forward thinking, pro-innovation, pro-consumer state that supports telehealth for all patients. Instead, the Georgia legislature has passed a blatantly protectionist bill that hurts Georgia patients and limits their access to safe, affordable, and convenient health care options. This bill is especially harmful to rural and low income communities where vision care isn’t necessarily convenient or affordable. We are disappointed in the legislature’s actions but are hopeful that we can continue the conversation in Georgia as to how Opternative can provide safe alternatives for Georgia patients to access much-needed vision care.”
Kelly McCutchen, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, shared with us:
“This legislation was hurriedly passed by both chambers with little consideration for the cost savings and health and time advantages to Georgians, many of whom are low-income and most of whom don’t have vision insurance but do have computer access. Worse, the service is legal in 46 states and the company clearly targeted in this legislation — Opternative.com — already operates in this state with not a single patient complaint.
We were a national leader in telehealth innovation. This is a huge, disappointing setback, not only for a telehealth but for a state that has been groping for effective alternatives to Medicaid expansion.”