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Unfair Competition?

August 06, 1986

(Re) "Project Offers Eye Care for Those Over 65" (by Ursula Vils, July 8): As an optometrist these kinds of articles are of particular interest to me, especially when the sub-head states: "Referrals Help Seniors Find Low-Cost Aid."

Wow, myself says to me . . . here's something about a group of eye doctors trying to help the poor helpless seniors, and like motherhood and apple pie there can only be goodness and kindness in the hearts of those behind a project like this . . . right? WRONG!

But when something sounds like motherhood and apple pie to the general public, how can I write a letter to expose what I think is the real reason behind such a project? Well, as someone once said, "Fools rush in . . . !"

The article concerns an effort by a group of ophthalmologists to screen large numbers of seniors with regard to the detection of some very common eye problems--cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. The article glaringly makes no mention of optometrists, another group of eye doctors vitally concerned with the detection of these eye diseases and who are eminently qualified both by training and experience to detect these eye diseases.

The article makes mention of a hotline and free screening services (doesn't it just tear at your heartstrings that some group, especially a group of doctors, is going to do something free for the seniors) if . . . and here's the big if . . . if the senior has no insurance or Medicare. But tell me, folks, how many seniors do you know who don't have Medicare. . . . very few. And so it would appear to me that very few of the "free" services would not be paid for by Medicare.

The criteria to receive these services is that the person phoning the hotline be 65 or older; a U.S. citizen (sure, why not raise the flag . . . it couldn't hurt); and must not have seen an ophthalmologist in the past three years. The program "however, does not cover medications, eyeglasses. . . ." "But, as long as you're in the office Mr. or Mrs. Senior, perhaps we can sell you a pair of eyeglasses."

Why doesn't the program mention visits in the last three years to an optometrist? Why doesn't the group sponsoring this project ask the profession of optometry to also help in this seemingly laudatory effort? Is it perhaps because this group's real goal is to lure prospective patients into the offices of ophthalmologists instead of optometrists?

DR. BERNARD SIMON

optometrist

Costa Mesa

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