Groups at odds over state question on optometrists, eye-care

OKLAHOMA CITY — Voters heading to the polls Tuesday will have an opportunity to weigh in on a state question regarding the right of optometrists and opticians to practice in retail stores.

State Question 793 would allow optometrists and opticians to practice in retail mercantile establishments. The Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians is opposed to the state question.

Joel Robison, executive director of the association, told News 4 Sunday it would limit a doctor’s practice.

“The language in the question would allow Walmart optometrists to basically not do the same sorts of exams, the same sorts of complete eye care that is currently required of all other optometrists in Oklahoma so we are going to create a lower standard of care,” Robison said.

Robison says this would favor the corporate bottom line over quality care.

“They (patients) won’t know they’re receiving a lower standard of care, there isn’t going to be a poster up on the wall that says attention patients, today you will not be receiving the following exams,” he explained. “When you go see an optometrist today, you are their patient. You are treated as a patient. They’re trying to meet your needs and concerns. When you walk inside a Walmart, you’re not a patient. You’re a customer.”

This is where groups in support have a difference in opinion.

Tim Tippit is the chair of the Yes On 793 committee. Tippit, an Edmond resident, is the president of the DaVinci Equity Group which operates eye-care facilities in Ohio and Michigan.

“That’s just not true. In all of my businesses, our names have one thing. Eye care,” he said. “My offices in Michigan and Ohio are going to do 23,000 comprehensive exams this year. And we’re going to be checking for glaucoma and diabetes and all of those things that go into eye health. Walmart is on record saying they’re going to provide comprehensive exams.”

Tippit told News 4, he hopes to bring his business to Oklahoma. If the state question passes, he would be in competition with retail stores like Walmart and Costco.

According to Tippit, more competition means better affordability and accessibility.

“Single parents, working parents can’t always get off to take their children or their families to the eye doctor. My offices are open two nights late a week and on every Saturday. Walmart will have extended hours,” he told News 4.

Polls will be open from to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. To read the full language of the state question, click here.