A new law will take effect over the objections of Gov. Nikki Haley that blocks an out-of-state company from using online eye exams to offer prescriptions for contacts and glasses.
The South Carolina House voted 98-1 Thursday to make such prescriptions illegal, overriding Haley’s veto. That came a day after Senate voted 39-3. South Carolina is the third state to pass a law banning the practice.
State Rep. Deborah Long, R-Lancaster, an optometrist in her private career, said the technology is not yet proven. “That technology is coming, but it’s just not there, yet,” she told House members shortly before the vote. “It’s much like the blood pressure units you see in CVS (pharmacies). You get a blood pressure reading, but that doesn’t mean you can take that reading and go up to the pharmacist to get your blood pressure pills.”
But the governor saw it differently, calling the bill “protectionism” for traditional eye doctors in her veto message. “It uses health practice mandates to stifle competition for the benefit of a single industry,” she said in her letter, warning it undermines efforts to expand healthcare access in South Carolina.
The company affected by the new law is Chicago-based Opternative, which offers a free online eye exam and affordable prescriptions within 24 hours for adults 45 and younger who access their website. Act 178 effectively bans Opternative by barring prescriptions generated by computers and only allowing a “valid prescription” from a provider licensed by the state of South Carolina.
Opternative’s CEO told the Associated Press the company has stopped offering the exams in South Carolina in response to the law.