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State Sen. Ed Hernandez is giving up for this year his effort to expand the kinds of medical services optometrists can offer in California.

The Democrat from West Covina said Monday that he is pulling his Senate Bill 492 from any further action in the Legislature this year, and will instead push for its passage in 2014. The bill would allow optometrists to diagnose and treat all kinds of ailments related to the eye, including conditions such as diabetes.

"We turned that into a two-year bill just to make sure we can continue working on it in committee, continue to work with the opposition," Hernandez told The Bee.

"What we wanted to achieve we felt needed a little more conversation, and we felt it would just be better to work over the break on it."

The bill is one of three Hernandez carried this year that would expand the so-called "scope of practice" for various medical professionals. He argued the bills were necessary to allow more people access to health care as federal law soon begins requiring everyone have health insurance. But the bill package set off a war with the California Medical Association, a powerful force in the Capitol that lobbies on behalf of doctors and worked hard to kill Hernandez's bills.

His SB 491, which would allow nurse practitioners more authority, was rejected by the Assembly business and professions committee last week and is up for reconsideration tomorrow. His SB 493, that expands the duties pharmacists may perform, is making its way through the Assembly. The optometry bill was scheduled for a committee vote tomorrow before Hernandez pulled it.

Molly Weedn, a spokeswoman for the California Medical Association, said doctors hoped to reach compromise with Hernandez on the optometry bill the way they had on the bill regarding pharmacists.

"We're glad there is extra time to work out what some of those difference are," she said. "Our biggest concern has been and remains that patients are being treated by qualified health care professionals."

Hernandez said it's too soon to say what kind of compromise is in order:

"We're not willing to give up on anything because we haven't had that conversation yet with the opposition."

PHOTO: Optometrist Aaron Lech does an eye exam on Melanie Kearns on April 11, 2013. Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton


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