Oklahoma prohibits retailers from offering eye exams and eyeglasses in the same place.
State law says that an optometrist cannot work in a commercial establishment. And, if you sell glasses or contact lenses, a majority of your income has to come from eye care. Even eye clinics that provide exams need a separate door to the section where glasses are sold.
But now, all might change if State Question 793 is approved. If the voters say yes on November 6th, then big box retailers like Walmart or Costco could be your one-stop shop for eye care.
SQ 793’s supporters say it’s all about choice, price, and convenience. If consumers can get eye exams and eye wear at more places, then they can care for their vision more affordably. Walmart and Costco were the big supporters of the initiative.
Disagreeing, Oklahoma’s optometrists unsuccessfully challenged SQ 793 in the state Supreme Court. They say that quality would plummet if retailers provide eye exams while the savings would be short term, if at all.
Our Bottom Line: The Market
In Oklahoma, state law limits supply. If SQ 793 passes, then a supply curve that is free to do what it wants will shift from S1 to S2. You can see that it becomes longer from more sellers and more horizontal (or elastic) from greater flexibility. Crossing demand at a lower point, the new supply curve creates a lower price:
Also using an economic lens, SQ 793’s opponents would cite the market’s negative externality that required state regulation to protect consumers. While many of us would agree with the yes vote, a physician friend of mine compares it to the lower quality check-ups at N.J. pharmacy chain stores. Her concern about lower quality medical care took me to the “No” side (although I really wanted to support the market rather than regulation).
Let’s see what happens on November 6th.
My sources and more: WSJ had the editorial opinion that alerted me to the Oklahoma ballot. From there, I needed Ballotpedia to explain the ballot question and why the current law required a constitutional amendment. You might also want to look at a similar question in North Carolina about whitening teeth.
Our featured image was from Tulsaworld.
Please note that I changed my opinion of the initiative after publication.