Advocacy

On January 1, 2021, Governor Charlie Baker signed the Telehealth Reform Bill, which included the scope of practice enhancement bill, enabling doctors of optometry to provide treatment for glaucoma and oral prescription medications. This long-fought for win, years in the making,  kicks off not only a new year but a new era in the care Massachusetts doctors are able to deliver.

Specifically, the legislation permits doctors' use and prescription of topical and oral therapeutical agents, including those in schedules III, IV, V and VI, for diagnosing, preventing, treating or managing glaucoma, as well as the prescription of all necessary eye medications, including oral anti-infectives. The legislation becomes law 90 days after the governor's signature, and in the meantime, the state board will promulgate rules and the MSO will provide doctors additional information on certification going forward.

This is a critical win for doctors, paraoptometric staff and students and will increase access to patients across the Commonwealth.

The MSO is committed to providing you with the latest information and updates here in the coming weeks.   

Frequently Asked Questions About Massachusetts Glaucoma and Orals Bill

Q: When was it passed and when will it take effect?

A: The bill was signed by Governor Baker on January 1, 2021. It will take effect 90 days thereafter, allowing the DPH, DPL and State licensing board time to initiate set up and regulations.

Q: What does the bill allow for Massachusetts doctors of optometry and their patients?

A: The bill will allow the treatment of glaucoma and oral prescription medications, including those placed in schedules III, IV, V and VI pursuant to section 2 of said chapter 94C, for the purpose of diagnosing, preventing, correcting, managing or treating glaucoma and other ocular abnormalities of the human eye and adjacent tissue; and (ii) prescribe all necessary eye-related medications, including oral anti-infective medications (excluding opioids)

Q: Is there an educational component needed to become certified?

A: Yes, there is a requirement of 40 hours of didactic education and twenty hours of clinical education.

Q: Who will run the course?

A: The MSO, in conjunction with Massachusetts' two optometry colleges (New England College of Optometry and MCPHS School of Optometry), will run the certification course as required by the law. Roll out of the education is expected in the Spring of 2021.

Q: Are there other provisions of the law that relate to optometry?

A: Yes, Two major additions:

  1. This act makes telehealth services permanently available for Massachusetts patients after the COVID-19 state of emergency has ended by requiring insurance carriers, including MassHealth, to cover telehealth services in any case where the same in-person service would be covered and the use of telehealth is appropriate. Access to primary care and chronic disease management services via telehealth are also enhanced in the bill by requiring these services to be reimbursed by insurers at the same rate as in-person services over the next two years. Equal payment rates for telehealth and in-person care for all other health care services, which have been temporarily mandated by an executive order, will also remain in place for 90 days beyond the end of the COVD-19 state of emergency.
  2. In the short term, this bill immediately institutes requirements for health care providers and insurance carriers to notify patients of a health care provider's network status before a non-emergency procedure occurs so the patient can make an informed decision about where to seek care and avoid receiving a surprise medical bill. In the long-term, and in light of potential changes to federal law, this bill tasks the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Health Policy Commission, the Center for Health Information and Analysis and the Division of Insurance, to develop a report and make recommendations on the process for establishing a fair and sustainable, out-of-network rate no later than Sept. 1, 2021.