I drive into my local Shell station to fill up, and stick my card in the pump, but the pump refuses to dispense. I walk into the office and ask the store manager why I can't get gasoline. She checks my account, and says "Mr. Meyer, your Volvo fuel prescription has expired." I say, "Oh, well its OK, I am sure I am using the right gas." She replies, "I'm sorry, but the law requires that you have to have a valid prescription from your dealership to refill your gas. You can't make that determination yourself, and most car dealerships have their prescriptions expire each year to make sure you bring the car in for a checkup. Regular checkups are important to the health of your car. You will need to pay for a service visit to your dealership before we can sell you gas." I reply, "RRRRRRR."
OK, so if this really happened we would all scream SCAM! While we all recognize that it may be important to get our car checked out every once in a while, most of us would see this for what it was: A government regulation intended mainly to increase the business of my Volvo dealership's service department by forcing me to pay for regular visits.
So why don't we cry foul when the exact same situation occurs every day with glasses and contact lenses? The parable above is nearly exactly the conversation I had the other day with the operator at 1-800-CONTACTS, except with "gas" substituted for "contacts". I know that my contact lens prescription is a bit out of date, but I really needed them for a trip, and in terms of safety, a slightly out-of-date contact lens in my eye is much better than none (My contacts are about -6.5, which means I am pretty blind without them). No joy, though. I did not have time to get to the doctor, so I wore -5.0 contacts I found in a drawer just to have something. The operator told me that doctors have the prescriptions expire each year so that I am forced to come see them. Why with eye doctors do we consider this "for my own good" when in any other profession it would be called a scam?
In fact, each year I know my eyes get about 0.25 worse on each lens. I would really like to just self-medicate and order myself the next level up, but of course that is way out of bounds. Can't trust people to figure out their own lens correction (though we do allow this for reading glasses, go figure).