Telehealth company sues Indiana for ban on online eye exams

A Chicago-based telehealth company that provides online eye testing is challenging Indiana's ban on doctors using online vision tests to issue prescriptions for corrective lenses.

Posted: Apr 22, 2019 9:23 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Chicago-based telehealth company that provides online eye testing is challenging Indiana's ban on doctors using online vision tests to issue prescriptions for corrective lenses.

Visibly, formerly known as Opternative, filed the lawsuit in Marion County, taking issue with the 2016 measure that was signed into law by then-Gov. Mike Pence, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported .

The telehealth law permits doctors to examine patients and prescribe treatments and drugs, but it notably contains exceptions for some categories such as abortion drugs, most opioids and any "ophthalmic device," which includes glasses, contact lenses and low-vision devices.

Thirty-nine states allow doctors to conduct vision examinations online.

Visibly argues that vision tests and eye prescriptions are not the same as abortion drugs or opioids, and they were incorporated into the ban because of pressure from optometrists and the eyeglasses industry.

The Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm, has also joined Visibly in the lawsuit.

The Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill and the state Director of the Consumer Protection Division, Betsy Dinardi, are listed as defendants.

The plaintiffs say Indiana's law was designed to increase access to health care, particularly for patients in rural areas and those who might struggle to be able to afford to travel to a doctor's office. They say it would give doctors permission to use new technologies to examine patients remotely and prescribe treatments and drugs.

"The purpose of this ban on Visibly's technology is not to protect the public health or safety," the 25-page complaint states. "Indeed, Indiana's telemedicine law recognizes that, in principle, telemedicine offers a safe and effective means of expanding access to care. The purpose of banning Visibly's technology, rather, is to protect brick-and-mortar optometrists from competition."

The lawsuit argues that the prohibition on online eye exams is unconstitutional, and forces "arbitrary, irrational and protectionist restrictions on the right to earn an honest living." The suit also asserts that Indiana's constitution bans the legislature from allowing exclusive or special rights to some groups but not to others.

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