In addition to being a State Senator serving Bridgeport, Trumbull, and Monroe, I am a lifelong resident of Bridgeport and community activist. As founder and president of The Witness Project, which seeks to address and reduce breast cancer mortality among low-income women, I see the consequences of health disparities every day.
In Connecticut, health disparities are a well-known problem among ethnic minorities such as African-Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos. House Bill 6012, An Act Concerning Consumer Protection in Eye Care, is currently pending before the legislature and raises major concerns in terms of health disparities.
The bill looks to prohibit eye doctors from using information obtained from an online test using a remote device (such as a phone app or other online application) as the sole basis for issuing a contact lens prescription and would require them to perform an in-person evaluation and eye examination of the patient before prescribing or renewing a prescription for contact lenses.
I joined my colleague Kelly Luxenberg of Manchester, in voting against this bill in the Public Health Committee because I believe it will increase health disparities in the area of eye care. Data has shown that individuals with less education and lower income are both less likely to visit an eye doctor and less able to afford eyeglasses when needed.
We heard public testimony from a doctor who reaffirmed that online eye test systems help make essential eye care accessible to everyone. According to Vision Council’s VisionWatch study, 67 million American adults have not had an eye exam in the last two years due to convenience and cost issues.
Daily activities such as walking, driving, reading, and using your smartphone are all dependent on having good eyesight. There are many people, like myself, however, who need the assistance of glasses and contact lenses to be able to see properly. This bill is simply going to make accessing eye care and prescriptions for glasses and contacts even more restrictive for many of my constituents in the 22nd Senatorial District.
According to the bill, in order to have healthy eyes and good vision, patients need to visit the doctor yearly for the option to receive an initial prescription and also to have their contacts renewed. This is especially concerning for communities of color and low-income populations who have a difficult time accessing affordable healthcare in the first place. What if a patient’s healthcare plan doesn’t cover annual visits? How will they replace their glasses or contacts if necessary? Right now, after an initial visit and eye exam, patients can leave their eye doctor’s office with a prescription, giving them the choice of how and when they will fill it. Whether it’s online or through a discount retailer, the choice is up to the patient to decide and utilize the method that is most convenient and affordable and this is how it should remain.
Despite the improvements in the overall health of the country, health disparities are still prevalent with many members of our society experiencing a lower quality of health care and accessibility. I’m afraid House Bill 6012 will only serve to exacerbate this divide and encourage my colleagues to oppose the legislation.
State Sen. Marilyn Moore represents the 22nd District, covering Trumbull and sections of Bridgeport and Monroe. She chairs both the Committee on Children and the Human Services Committee while also serving on the Education Committee; Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee; Public Health Committee; and the Joint Committee of Legislative Management.