Florida SB 230 Legislation Could Strip Title From Optometrists

A Florida bill could prevent optometrists from marketing themselves as physicians.

Florida SB 230 may strip optometrists of the right to call themselves physicians. The bill, which has been publicized as the state’s “Don’t Call Yourself a Doctor Bill,” seeks to prevent nurse practitioners who have earned a doctorate and others from using what legislators argue are “misleading” terms, which include adding a “Dr” title to business cards, white coats, and advertising materials. It would also forbid optometrists from calling themselves doctors or physicians, or neglecting to identify themselves as “doctors of optometry.”1 

The bill was first filed in the Florida Senate on February 9, 2023, by Gayle Harrell (R, District 31), where it unanimously passed after a hearing March 15, 2023.

Sen. Harrell’s office clarified that, while optometrists could continue to use the term “doctor of optometry,” Florida SB 230 will deny them the term “physician.” But the language of the bill itself specifies that “…a nonphysician health care practitioner may not use the title “doctor” in any form of advertisement, telehealth interaction, text message, or verbal communication without clearly identifying himself or herself as a ‘doctor’ of a specific profession, citing the applicable chapter under which the health care practitioner is licensed.”

The proposal is seen as a step backward by a number of optometric groups, which have seen successes in recent years advocating in favor of scope expanding legislation.

SB 230 contains discriminatory language that clearly disparages the profession of optometry in the state of Florida.

“This harmful legislation also imposes a felony level penalty of ‘practicing medicine without a license’ against an optometrist for the use of these descriptive terms, which is an egregious and abusive overreach of governmental enforcement for a civil offense,” says Mark Marciano, OD, president of the Florida Optometric Association. Florida’s
“SB 230 contains discriminatory language that clearly disparages the profession of optometry in the state of Florida.” 

The Florida House of Representatives’ version of Florida SB 230 — HB 583 — has not yet been scheduled for a hearing in the Florida state house.
Similar bills are being considered in Texas and Connecticut, although neither of those have yet passed a vote.2,3

References:

  1. Harrell G. Health care practitioner titles and designations. Updated: March 15, 2023. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  2. Allison S. Texas house bill 2324. Updated March 9, 2023. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  3. Anwar S, Nolan D. An act concerning truth in advertising by health care providers. Updated March 20, 2023. Accessed March 22, 2023.