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Blind to reality: Another bad insurance regulation

The word “discriminate” has a negative connotation even when the discrimination in question is perfectly justifiable. That negative implication was certainly intended when Rep. Chris Muns used the word in his House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee report on an insurance parity bill.

“This bill requires that insurers not discriminate in the rate of fee for service reimbursement they offer to optometrists and ophthalmologists, for the same procedure that each is licensed by the state to provide, based solely on whether the provider providing the procedure is an optometrist or ophthalmologist,” Muns wrote for an 11-member majority of the committee.

In plain English, House Bill 585 would mandate that insurers reimburse optometrists and ophthalmologists at precisely the same rate for performing the same procedures. What could possibly be wrong with that?

The wrong comes in the state forcing insurers to ignore the very real differences between optometrists and ophthalmologists. Optometrists are doctors of optometry — not doctors of medicine. They can treat only eyes. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in treating the eyes.

HB 585 would force insurers to pretend that there is no difference between optometrists and ophthalmologists when the two offer similar services. But there are differences, which insurers recognize through their reimbursement rates. That recognition should not be illegal.

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