Rush, Burgess, Blunt Rochester, McKinley Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Protect Consumers In Online Contact Lens Sales, Fix Lax Oversight And Ban Robocalls

May 20, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representatives Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-Texas), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), and David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.) announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation that would make purchasing contact lenses online easier and safer, ban the use of robocalls to verify patient information, and ensure that protected medical information sent over email is encrypted.

Currently, online retailers are not required to have consumers upload their prescriptions in order to sell them contact lenses, allowing for potentially harmful contact lenses to be sold to unknowing consumers.  Other lax regulations allow online retailers to send protected medical information through email without encryption, and worse, use robocalls to verify patient information.  The Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act (H.R. 3353) would provide new protections to consumers by banning the use of robocalls, requiring online retailers to provide an online portal for consumers to upload their prescriptions, and requiring that all medical information sent in emails is encrypted.

“An estimated 45 million Americans wear contact lenses. After a year in which online transactions were frequently the only — or the safest  way to purchase critical items, it has become even more apparent that we must bring our woefully inadequate laws regulating online contact lens sales into the 21st century,” said Rep. Rush.  This legislation will eliminate dubious business practices including the use of robocalls and unencrypted emails to share sensitive medical information and bring necessary protections to consumers.  I appreciate the robust bipartisan support from my colleagues Reps. Burgess, Blunt Rochester, and McKinley on this needed and commonsense legislation.”  

“Throughout this pandemic, Americans have benefited from the convenience of technology.  At a time when many consumers are avoiding in-person interactions, the ability to purchase contact lenses online preserves patient safety.  Unfortunately, online contact lens providers are still allowed to verify prescriptions using an automated voice, or robocall.  In the past, this has resulted in incorrect prescriptions and sometimes permanent eye damage or blindness.  Contact lenses are classified as medical devices; therefore, it is critical for patients to receive the correct prescription when ordering contact lenses — regardless of where they place the order.  The Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act disallows robocalls for contact lens prescription verifications and extends HIPAA protections to correspondence between a patient and an online seller.  This bill will maintain consumers’ freedom while ensuring that physicians can verify their patients’ prescriptions,” said Rep. Burgess.  “I am grateful for Congressman McKinley and Congressman Blunt Rochester joining Congressman Rush and I in this effort to protect American consumers.”

“I am proud to join with my colleagues in introducing the Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act.  Throughout the pandemic, one of my top priorities in Congress has been ensuring that consumers are protected from malicious and intentionally deceptive business practices,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester.  “Given the damage that unregulated and unprescribed contact lenses can cause, it only makes sense to ensure that there is proper oversight and protection for American consumers.  The Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act will do just that.”

“Contact lenses are necessary for many Americans to go about their daily lives.  It is critical for consumers to receive the correct prescription when ordering contact lenses and protect their medical information.  Our bipartisan legislation will protect patient health and safety when ordering contact lenses,” said Rep. McKinley.

“It is time to fix the robocall loophole unscrupulous Internet-based mass contact lens retailers continue to exploit, undermining quality care and needlessly putting patient health at risk, said Dr. William Reynolds, President of the American Optometric Association.  “The AOA, doctors of optometry, and the patients they serve in communities across the country thank Reps. Rush, Burgess, Blunt Rochester, and McKinley for their visionary leadership in introducing this bill and for their demonstrated dedication to improving the health and safety of millions of contact lens-wearing Americans.”

The Contact Lens Prescription Verification Modernization Act is supported by the American Optometric Association, the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Rush and Burgess introduced similar legislation, H.R 3975, last Congress. 

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