Contact Lens Prescription Rights Explained

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Congress recently passed an Act that gives contact lens wearers increased freedom to purchase their lenses from retailers other than their eye doctor. The “Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act” makes it easier and cheaper for consumers to shop for contact lenses based on price and convenience.

Here are the main points about your contact lens prescription rights.

The Right to One’s Own Prescription — Automatically:

Having a copy of one’s own prescription has been called the patient’s ticket to lower prices, better service and increased convenience. The federal law requires eye doctors, at the conclusion of the fitting, to automatically provide each patient with a copy of his or her own contact lens prescription, whether or not the patient asks for a copy. This gives contact lens wearers the same right to their prescription that eyeglass wearers have enjoyed since 1978.

Prohibitions on Making Prescription Release Conditional:

The new law generally prohibits eye doctors from making the release or verification of a patient’s contact lens prescription conditional. As a condition of releasing or verifying a contact lens prescription, eye doctors:

  • May not charge the patient a fee
  • May not require the patient to purchase contact lenses from them
  • May not require the patient to sign a waiver or release
  • May not write an expiration date of less than one year unless there is a specific medical reason.

The Right to Shop Around:

The new federal law gives contact lens wearers the power to purchase their contact lenses wherever they choose, ensuring the opportunity to get the lowest price and maximum convenience. Contact lens wearers do not have to buy their contact lenses from their eye doctor.

The Right to Have One’s Prescription Verified:

To assure consumers the right to shop around for contact lenses, the new law establishes a workable passive prescription verification system. Eye care providers are now required to verify a consumer’s prescription when requested to do so by that consumer’s chosen retailer. A prescription is now considered verified if an eye care professional does not respond to a seller’s verification request within 8 business hours after its receipt.

The Right to a Fair Expiration Date:

The new federal law establishes standards ensuring that contact lens prescriptions are valid for at least one year. States, however, are free to establish a longer (but not a shorter) prescription length. A prescription for a period shorter than the legal minimum may only be written if justified by the patient’s medical health. This protects consumers from having eye care practitioners write shorter prescriptions and forcing contact lens wearers to pay for unnecessary and costly eye exams.

Protection Against Expensive Private Label Lenses:

The new federal law seeks to prevent prescribers from locking consumers into purchasing private label lenses that can be more expensive than other brands and must be purchased from the eye care provider. If a manufacturer sells identical lenses under multiple labels, a seller may fill a patient’s prescription with any of those lenses. Consumers prescribed a private-label lens will be able to purchase any identical lens offered by the same manufacturer.

Preemption of State Law:

The new federal law protects all consumers by preempting state laws intended to impede sales of contact lenses.

Penalties:

Violations of the new federal law are considered unfair or deceptive acts or practices, subject to the enforcement of the Federal Trade Commission.