TALLAHASSEE – A measure has advanced that would allow optometrists to perform surgeries and prescribe more medications. But, ophthalmologists are standing firm against it.

Supporters, according to the Orlando Sentinel, have a position that the bill would increase the availability of health care in some areas. Opponents say that the legislation would impair patient safety during the nation’s opioid crisis.

“They’ve been pushing to expand their scope of practice since the 1980s and now they’re just all out,” Dr. Javier Perez, a glaucoma and cataract specialist at Orlando Eye Specialists and a passionate opponent of the bills, told the Sentinel.

Many people confuse the terms: only ophthalmologists have a medical degree.

In most states and Florida, optometrists complete a four-year program after college and can perform eye exams, prescribe corrective lenses and have some knowledge of eye disease.

Florida optometrists can perform certain surgeries including laser procedures, prescribe and administer medications including narcotics, and be reimbursed for their services similarly to ophthalmologists.

House Bill 1037 is sponsored by Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, and Senate Bill 1168 is sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

The bill passed the House Health Quality Subcommittee with an 8-7 vote and is headed to the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. If approved, the measure would become law July 1.