A debate in the Missouri General Assembly over vision testing for children has placed David Sater, 68th District state representative from Cassville, in the middle of two competing proposals.
Legislation passed four years ago requiring incoming kindergarten students to get comprehensive eye examinations will expire in 2012. The effort to renew the legislation has run into a debate over cost.
A Children's Vision Commission, created under the original law to review the effectiveness of the legislation, determined 61 percent of parents had either opted out of the eye tests or chosen to ignore the law. The commission determined the law had not been effective.
As an alternative, the commission recommended turning eye exams back over to the schools. Sater proposed a new law based on the commission's recommendation. Under the plan, if a problem is detected, the school nurse will refer the student for a required exam with a professional optometrist or opthalmologist.
Speaker of the House Steven Tilley has sent a different proposal from 147th District State Representative Don Wells to the full House for debate. Wells proposed keeping the original legislation intact for an indefinite period. Wells' bill received the backing of the House health insurance committee.
"What I don't like about the current law is that we have a lot of hardworking people who are facing a $40 to $45 charge to see an optometrist or more to see an opthalmologist," said Sater. "I'd rather see a school nurse doing the testing, then referring because something is wrong. I don't have a problem with that. Economically it makes sense. Kids can't learn if they can't see."
Sater said the Missouri Medical Association supports his bill. Speaker Tilley, an optometrist, has not referred Sater's bill to a committee for review.