Florida Law Prohibits Optometrists from Practicing with Non-Licensed Corporations or Individuals

Monday, February 1, 2016
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Florida , unlike many other states, does not prohibit the corporate practice of medicine. This lack of prohibition, allows for a licensed physician or other health care provider to practice medicine as an employee or contractor of a corporation or other business entity owned and operated by a non-physician. This principle has been exhibited in a number of court cases and several declaratory statements issued by The Florida Board of Medicine.

However, this rule does not extend to optometrists, who are expressly prohibited by Florida law from practicing with non-licensed corporations or individuals.

Florida Statutes, Section 463.014(1)(a) and (b), state in pertinent part:

“No corporation, lay body, organization, or individual other than a licensed practitioner shall engage in the practice of optometry through the means of engaging the services, upon a salary, commission, or other means or inducement, of any person licensed to practice optometry in this state.” And–

“No licensed practitioner shall engage in the practice of optometry with any corporation, organization, group, or lay individual.”

Not Prohibited by Florida Law for the Practice of Optometry.

However, the statutes do not prohibit an optometrist from practicing under the following circumstances:

(1) “…with a multi-disciplinary group of licensed health care professionals, the primary objective of which is the diagnosis and treatment of the human body”;

(2) “…from employing, or from forming partnerships or professional associations with, licensed practitioners licensed in this state or with other licensed health care professionals, the primary objective of whom is the diagnosis and treatment of the human body”; and

(3) to practice “in or on the premises of a commercial or mercantile establishment.” Fla. Stat. §463.014(1)(a), (b), and (c) (2015).

Additionally, corporations or other business entities can employ licensed practitioners to provide optometry services to employees of the corporation or business and their immediate family members. This rule only applies so long as such services provided are incidental to the primary objective and business of the corporation or organization. This section is not to be construed as the authorization for employment of a licensed practitioner by a non-licensed corporation established primarily for such services as optometry. Fla. Stat. §463.014(2) (2015).

The Importance of Advertising.

While it is important to advertise your business to maintain traffic flow and profits, that’s not exactly the objective being discussed here. Rather, Florida law and the Florida Board of Optometry has specific requirements for advertising that must clearly distinguish between professional and lay practice.

“Advertising goods or services in a manner which is fraudulent, false, deceptive, or misleading in form or content” is grounds for disciplinary action by the Board, per Florida Statutes, Section 463.016(1)(f) (2015).

Florida law further prohibits licensed practitioners from:

(1) “…practic[ing] under practice identification names, trade names, or service names, unless any dissemination of information by the practitioner to consumers contains the name under which the practitioner is licensed or that of the professional association in which the practitioner participates. Any advertisement or other dissemination of information to consumers may contain factual information as to the geographic location of licensed practitioners or of the availability of optometric services”; and

(2) “…adopt[ing] and publish[ing] or caus[ing] to be published any practice identification name, trade name, or service name which is, contains, or is intended to serve as an affirmation of the quality or competitive value of the optometric services provided at the identified practice.” Fla. Stat. §463.014(1)(d) and (e) (2015).

An optometrist, in advertising his or her practice, should be wise not to give the appearance of being associated or affiliated with another business entity or individual which or whom itself is not a licensed practitioner.

Make Sure the Contract Protects Your Interests.

A licensed practitioner should review both the statutory law and the latest rules of the Board of Optometry before entering into any business arrangement for the provision of optometry services that includes any unlicensed person or entity.

Identifying one’s activity or practice in a manner which represents to the public that the person is a licensed practitioner or certified optometrist, when the person has not been licensed or certified per Florida law requirements, constitutes a misdemeanor. Furthermore, practicing or attempting to practice optometry without a valid license is punishable as a felony in this state.

Finally, the Florida Board of Optometry, through its rule-making authority, has enacted rather stringent requirements to separate professional optometry from control by others. For example, the Board of Optometry has implemented a rule to require that Optometrists’ contractual agreements may not limit their independent professional judgment.

Therefore, an optometrist should always have such contractual agreements reviewed in advance by his or her own experienced health attorney as a fundamental safeguard. The optometrist entering into any such contract must make sure he or she complies fully with the law.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Optometrists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to optometrists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, contract matters, business law matters, business litigation and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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