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California Approves Expanded Scope of Practice Legislation That California Optometric Association Had Supported

October 12, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Two bills signed into law recently by Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom will expand the scope of practice for optometrists in the state, according to a recent announcement by the California Optometric Association (COA).

The Newsom administration announced that assembly bill AB 407 introduced by assembly members Rudy Salas Jr. (D) and Evan Low (D) revises the Optometric Practice Act to eliminate the restrictive list of “allowed” drugs and conditions, and instead authorizes treatment of all non-cancerous anterior segment conditions, with some limitations, COA noted.

There also are new rules for optometric and medical assistants, including a prohibition of subjective refraction being done by assistants via telemedicine. The language prohibiting subjective refraction via telemedicine applies to assistants only, Kristine Shultz, COA's executive director, said.

As stated, in the bill, "This bill would permit such an assistant to perform nonsubjective auto refraction, to perform preliminary subjective refraction procedures in connection with finalizing subjective refraction procedures performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, subject to certain conditions, and to perform A scan and B scan ultrasound testing."


A summary of the bill, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2022, is available here.

In addition, AB 691 introduced by assembly member Ed Chau (D) authorizes optometrists to administer COVID-19 vaccines permanently and to perform CLIA-waived COVID-19 testing.

Optometrists see patients more frequently than other types of providers and each visit to the optometrist is an opportunity to vaccinate, COA noted in its statement.
With the ongoing need for booster shots, optometry offices can play a big role in improving public health. This bill takes effect immediately, according to the COA announcement.
“These two new laws will help bridge the huge gap between the number of available doctors and the growing number of patients in need,” Dr. Ida Chung, president of the California Optometric Association, said. “I’m proud of all we have accomplished this year.”
There are two other bills COA advocated for that were signed into law earlier this year:

  • AB 1534 introduced by assembly member Low requires physicians to be subject to California Business and Professions Code 655, the law that prohibits retail optical companies from interfering in an optometrist’s professional judgment.

AB 1534 makes all companies follow the same rules and prohibits corporations from using a physician group to get around the law. This bill also significantly increases fines for large companies that continue to break the law. This law takes effect Jan. 1, 2022.

  • SB 509 introduced by Senator Scott Wilk (R) allows optometry school graduates to temporarily practice optometry under supervision if they are unable to take Part III of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry because of COVID-19. This law took effect Sept. 22, 2021.