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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Great Glasses Controversy

 Above is an image of the Great Glasses location in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada.

  To visitors all over the world, and to those in Ontario who aren't aware of the issue, Great Glasses is an Ontario optical chain that is in serious legal trouble.
   What they provide is a very desirable service to Ontarians without private optical insurance coverage, a free eye test with only having to pay for the glasses or contact lenses a customer wants.  For customers who want glasses, they will usually sell three pairs for around $200 or so altogether.

  As of November 1st, 2004, in Ontario, OHIP stopped providing optical testing coverage for adults aged 20-64.  OHIP is the Ontario government's public health insurance plan.  See for more on the optical care/OHIP issue.  

  My opinion of the matter is I'm outraged that OHIP no longer pays for optical testing for most Ontario adults.  But then, I'm also outraged that OHIP doesn't cover medically necessary dental care, either.  And untreated dental infections can actually become deadly.  OHIP covers all kinds of treatment for patients with non-lethal medical conditions.

  Anyway, in the wake of the coverage cuts made by OHIP in late 2004, Great Glasses started to thrive.  There are at least a couple of dozen locations across the province, with a few in Hamilton.  But ever since 2003, Great Glasses has faced legal trouble, too.  In order to provide free eye exams, Great Glasses can't hire optometrists.  Store clerks with just a little bit of store training use eye testing equipment to determine a customer's prescription.  But a non-optometrist with just a little bit of training about how to use eye testing equipment can determine a customer's correct prescription.  See this excerpt from Sam Blitz at about professions that may be disappearing:

 Those of you with glasses or contacts, think about the last time you went to the optometrist. What exactly did he or she actually do? They have a bunch of machines where an assistant checks you for cataracts or whatever, then the actual eye doctor has you look into a machine and you tell him whether or not you can see with various lenses. Then he writes down a number and they either feed it into a machine that spits out some lenses, or a lady at the counter grabs some contacts off the shelf. We're not looking to insult the eye doctors of the world but come on. These aren't exactly House-style medical mysteries here.

It doesn't take a million-dollar robot to do the job, either. Consider the smart phone app called NETRA, which stands for Near-Eye Tool for Refractive Assessment. It aims to replace your local optometrist with a plastic lens phone attachment. The device is quite similar to the normal optometrist tool, except that it lets the user adjust the focus of the image on his own without the need of a Ph.D.-laden middleman.

Read more:


 I've read comments on articles on the Hamilton Spectator ( saying that maybe non-medical professionals (or robots!) may be able to determine someone's glasses or contact lens prescription, but only a physician like an optometrist can diagnose eye diseases, which an optometrist may spot during an eye exam.   I have a father who's had cataract surgery in both eyes, a mother with glaucoma, and a legally blind paternal grandmother with macular degeneration, so I see the point.  But why don't we have store clerks or robots give glasses/contact lens prescriptions, and then have people visit a real optometrist once every few years to test for eye diseases?  Having store clerks make visual correction prescriptions would cut out a lot of an optometrists' workload, so that they can focus on glaucoma, etc.

  Ah, but then, we would need fewer optometrists.  I can certainly understand the College of Optometrists and College of Opticians pursuing legal action against Great Glasses founder Bruce Bergez.  See (  And I'm usually a supporter of worker's rights and labour unions.  For instance, I've permanently boycotted Walmart.  

  Then, why doesn't the Ontario government/OHIP restore eye exam funding for ALL Ontarians?  And then cover all necessary (non-cosmetic) dental care for ALL Ontarians?  The Ontario government could afford it if the federal government would give more money to Ontario.  And the federal government would have more money for the Ontario government if: 

  • We cut funding to all three branches of the Canadian military, so that we have enough forces to protect Canada and her allies from International threats, but not so many troops and equipment to fight wars Canada shouldn't be involved in, such as Afghanistan.  I say this as a sister of a Canadian air force member who is currently stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, Captain Winston Crawley.  We can lay off half of our troops, cancel the over BILLION dollar order of fighter jets, and sell half of the military equipment currently in possession.  I have a lot of respect for our brave men and women in the armed forces, and the ones who are made to return to civilian life should get all the financial help from the government needed for college, university, retraining, and finding civilian applications for the special skills the former soldiers may have.  The government must protect their military pensions, and give all the financial help needed to find a decent paying civilian career.  But even with the billions of dollars that may be needed, we would quickly save the federal government billions of dollars by having smaller armed forces only fighting when necessary to protect Canada and her allies.
  • Marijuana was made legally available to Canadian adults (maybe take a cue from tobacco and alcohol laws and make the legal age 19), and taxed like tobacco.  Countless billions of dollars would be saved from freeing cops from pursuing people who are simply enjoying smoking weed, and billions saved from the criminal courts no longer dealing with marijuana possession/trafficking issues.  Marijuana taxes would fill the federal coffers with additonal billions.
  • These two things will only be made possible when we no longer have a 'Dubya' light like Stephen Harper as prime minister.  As an NDP supporter, I say we should change our election system from FPTP (first past the post) to proportional representation, and the Liberal party should split up.  The farther right Liberals could make the Conservatives a more moderate party and the farther left Liberals could join the NDP.  I have no problems with naming that new party the Liberal Party.  The fact that 38% or so of voting Canadians chose their Conservative MP candidate should not burden the rest of us with the farthest right wing federal government Canada has ever had.  And contrary to what the conservative media says about us wacky lefties, Harper's Conservatives have spent a lot more money than any other federal government previously, even when adjusted for inflation.

 Ah!  That's my political rant for today.  Anyway, for disclosure, I must say that I'm a customer of Great Glasses, I'm currently wearing a pair I bought from their now closed Ikea Plaza Burlington location last spring.

  Anyway, amidst all of their legal troubles (see and, I'm surprised they're still in business.  I wonder for how much longer?

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