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You Don’t Need Glasses to See These DC Swamp Creatures Coming

(Chuck Muth) – While “Drain the Swamp” became a rallying cry during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign last year, it was more an understood overall concept among casual voters than anything in particular.  But a recent FTC ruling and special interest blowback will help clarify the issue.

In our example the problem is the fact that optometrists, who are not actual medical doctors, are nevertheless allowed to not only write prescriptions for contact lenses, but, unlike actual medical doctors, allowed to fill those prescriptions themselves in-house, adding boodles of retail sales dollars to their bottom lines.

The gravy train was rolling smoothly along until Al Gore invented the Internet and competition from online lens providers starting eating away at their profits from this captive audience as consumers began opting for the convenience and cost-savings offered by companies such as 1-800-Contacts and Lens.com.

Many optometrists responded to the new-fangled competition by simply withholding or slow-walking prescriptions.  Congress, in response in 2003, passed the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) which REQUIRED optometrists to provide customers with a copy of their prescriptions free of charge.

Many optometrists responded to this new-fangled law by simply ignoring it without penalty.  And for their part, most customers, to this day, still don’t even know this consumer protection law exists.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in response earlier this year, issued a rule requiring optometrists to not only give their customers a copy of their prescription, but obtain a signed statement from the customer acknowledging they did, in fact, receive a copy of their prescription.

Now, to be fair, this is another in long line of examples dating back almost to Adam and Eve where a few bad apples spoil the whole barrel.  That’s why Noah was only allowed to bring two of every kind onboard the Ark.

Except, according to one study commissioned by Consumer Action, 31 percent of contact lens customers surveyed reported they were not given a copy of their ‘script.  A third is more than a “few.”

Regardless, the number of non-compliant optometrists who continue to ignore the law and milk their captive audience customers with higher-priced retail products is significant enough to warrant the FTC’s very reasonable rule despite all the whining, kvetching and gnashing of teeth by the eye “docs” who claim it’s an expensive and substantial burden.

But as the FTC itself noted in explaining the necessity of the rule, thanks to some rogue optometrists…

“The Commission believes that implementation of signed acknowledgements would best serve several important objectives: Reminding prescribers to release prescriptions, informing patients of their rights, reducing misunderstandings, and improving the Commission’s verification and enforcement ability.”

In other words, the new rule will weed out bad actors by putting some enforcement teeth in existing laws, protect the rights of consumers and foster free-market competition which will lower costs and boost convenience for millions of contact lens wearers.

Who could argue with that?

Cue: THE SWAMP CREATURES!

Optometrists ain’t about to give up their goose that lays those golden in-house sales eggs without a fight.  As such they’ve unleashed the DC version of The Cracken: The American Optometric Association (AOA).

The AOA is a deep-pocketed, arm-twisting, wining-and-dining, inside-the-beltway lobbying group.  A Swamp Creature.  And ever since the new FTC rule was announced, the AOA has been flooding Congress with false claims, false ads, false “studies,” and false propaganda.

This is what DC Swamp Monsters do.

Last month the AOA unleashed a DC “fly-in” of optometrists who slithered through the Capitol Hill halls sowing sky-is-falling fear that the Contact Lens Rule was endangering patient safety.

This is what DC Swamp Monsters do.

In addition, the AOA is pushing an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government bill that would effectively gut the consumer protections afforded by the FCLCA and throttle market competition.

This is what DC Swamp Monsters do.

They don’t care about consumers.  They don’t care about voters.  They don’t care about taxpayers.  They only care about the special interest they represent.  They use all their power, all their tools, all their money and all their connections to persuade Members of Congress to stick it to the vast majority of their constituents who can’t afford a K Street lobbyist.

This is what DC Swamp Monsters do.

This high-priced/high-profile AOA campaign to continue protecting this protected market is exactly the kind of swamp sludge President Trump went to Washington to drain.  Forget the pitchforks and torches.  Bring on the plungers and shop vacs!

Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a free-market 501(c)(4) grassroots advocacy organization