Texas Governor Signs Important Law

On Saturday, June 20, 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 684 into law allowing private optometric practitioners to provide patients with materials from sources of their own choosing rather than being required to use those of managed vision care companies. The new law goes into effect on Sept. 1, 2015, and it applies to contracts entered into or renewed on or after that date.

Specifically, the law prohibits managed care plans from restricting or limiting an optometrist’s choice of sources or suppliers of services or materials, including optical laboratories used by the optometrist to provide services or materials to patients.

In addition, the law also prohibits managed care plans from controlling the professional judgment, manner of practice, or practice of an optometrist or therapeutic optometrist; paying an optometrist for a service not provided; or requiring an optometrist to disclose a patient’s confidential or protected health information unless the disclosure is authorized by the patient or permitted without authorization under HIPAA.

The law also requires optometrists to disclose to a patient any business interest the optometrist has in an out-of-network supplier or manufacturer to which the optometrist refers the patient.

The impetus for the legislation, according to analysis of the bill in the Texas House Committee report, was based on the fact that interested parties assert that some vision plan companies “require optometrists to disclose confidential medical diagnoses of their patients in order for the optometrist to remain

in compliance with plan rules” and “the parties report that some vision plan companies also require optometrists to use an optical laboratory the vision plan owns, even when the optometrist knows that a different lab can produce glasses for a patient more quickly, at a lower price, and with better craftsmanship and quality control.”

The law was approved by the Texas legislature earlier this month, as reported by VMail.