Minnesota senator's broken glasses prompt 'Freedom to See Act'

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Have you ever lost or broken your glasses and not had a backup pair? Sometimes it's not easy to get a replacement.

Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, feels your pain and is working on a bill that would help out in these emergency situations.

The bill was inspired by his own misfortune. Last March, Senjem broke his only pair of glasses, so he went to a one-hour optical shop to get his glasses replaced as fast as possible. But, the person working at the store told Senjem that state law prohibited the sale of glasses to people with prescriptions older than two years – Senjem's was over four years old – so he would have to have an eye exam to get new glasses, the Rochester Post Bulletin says.

"I believe I made the comment, 'That's a dumb law,'" Senjem told the paper.

He was frustrated because he had just passed his driver's license eye test with his old glasses four months before they broke. Finally, after checking with three optical stores, he found one that could squeeze him in for an eye exam to get new glasses, the paper says.

It turns out there isn't such a law about eyeglass prescriptions, but there is for contact lenses, the paper says. So Senjem set out to clear up the confusion and create an exception to eyeglass prescription expirations with a bill he calls the "Freedom to See Act."

Senjem's bill is part of a larger Health and Human Services policy measure, which has yet to be voted on in the Senate.

The Freedom to See Act would allow opticians, optometrists, physicians or eyeglass retailers to sell someone glasses based on an old prescription as long as they were informed of the risks that can come with using an outdated prescription.

But there's been some opposition from the Minnesota Optometric Association, which says eye exams are critically important to detect potentially serious medical conditions, and also to make sure a patient's vision hasn't changed, the newspaper says.

The Minnesota Optometric Association and Senjem are teaming up to come up with a compromise that will likely allow an optometrist or physician to prescribe emergency eyeglass replacements, but not opticians and eyeglass retailers, the paper says.

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