Nearly a year ago now, I took a look at an unsettling trend in medical practices in the age of Obamacare. As states struggle to keep up with restrictions and fiscal strains under the provisions of the new law, people were looking to both cut costs and make up for a decreasing number of doctors. One area which was being considered was lowering the bar for who could be licensed to perform certain practices. This was of particular concern in the area of eye care, where Kentucky was looking at expanding the role of optometrists (who are not medical doctors), allowing them to perform certain procedures typically left to ophthalmologists.

It seems that this trend has not gone away as Obamacare gears up to full speed, and a similar move is now under consideration in nearby Tennessee.

60 Plus Association, the nation’s leading conservative senior advocate organization is calling on Tennessee lawmakers to oppose House Bill 555 and Senate Bill 220. These bills would allow optometrists – who are not medical doctors and do not go through surgical residency training– to inject anesthesia into the tissues surrounding the eye and perform scalpel surgery on the eyelid. The proposal to expand the legal scope of practice by non-medical eye care providers follows along a similar path that optometrists and legislators in California are currently pursuing in their implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as ObamaCare…

Jim Martin, Chairman of 60 Plus, explained that among the many problems related with Obamacare, it is resulting in states considering proposals to re-define who can practice medicine and surgery. “It’s one thing for politicians in California to be pushing these radical proposals to implement Obamacare, but why would lawmakers in Tennessee even consider similar legislation that dumbs down patient safety standards,” Martin said. “Our seniors were promised we could keep our health plans and our doctors. Neither promise rang true. But what is true is that Obamacare is tempting states into legislating a new type of doctor or surgeon, one that doesn’t have to go through medical school or residency to perform surgery, but rather to the state legislature instead.

As the article mentions, there has been a similar move underway in California, and it’s no less controversial there. They tried the same thing in Louisiana last year, but the public outcry was such that it was abandoned by its own sponsor. While the temptation to lower the bar and make up for shortfalls under Obamacare is obviously compelling for legislatures, it’s hard to find any unbiased observer who thinks this is a good idea.

I would like to stress yet again that this is not a knock against optometrists. I see one myself on a yearly basis and they do very important work. But if they don’t have the same level of training as an ophthalmologist in terms of performing surgical procedures or the duties of an anesthesiologist, do we really want to begin assigning them this work simply because a new federal law is driving qualified professionals out of the marketplace? That sounds like a very dodgy tradeoff.

Gee… if only someone had warned us about all of this before they voted the law into place. (/sarc)