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American Medical Association sides against optometrists in Florida Eyeball Wars

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The nation’s largest association of physicians is the latest group to come out against a bill at the center of Florida’s so-called “Eyeball Wars” between ophthalmologists and optometrists.

On Thursday, American Medical Association President and CEO James Madara sent a letter to House Health & Human Services Committee chair Travis Cummings, in which he called on lawmakers to reject HB 1037, a measure that seeks give optometrists expanded practice to perform a certain type of laser surgeries in Florida.

The two-page letter expresses several concerns with the bill, including the relative lack of education and experience of optometrists compared to ophthalmologists — who “possess the comprehensive medical knowledge necessary to safely perform surgical procedures on patients.”

“Patient safety and quality of care demand that patients be assured that individuals who perform invasive procedures have appropriate medical education and training,” Madara wrote. ” Quite simply, safe use of lasers and scalpels requires extensive medical education and training. Surgery on or around the human eye is not something to be taken lightly.

“The AMA strongly opposes HB 1037 because there is no way to safely perform surgical procedures without the comprehensive education and clinical training received in medical or osteopathic school,” Madara added. “The lack of specific additional education and training proposed by HB 1037 comes nowhere near this standard.”

In a procedural move, House Speaker Richard Corcoran removed HB 1037 from the schedule of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. In response, Florida Society of Ophthalmology President Adam Katz said the move — which he suggested was “orchestrated” — gave his organization one less opportunity to stop the measure from becoming law.

Supporting HB 1037 include the Florida Optometric Association, which has hired a team of a dozen lobbyists to promote the bill, including Michael Corcoran, brother of the House Speaker.

POLITICO Florida reports that March 20, the FOA hired influential Capital City Consulting lobbyist Nick Iarossi.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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