I like to think there is a special place in hell reserved for the people who created this regulation.
In a sane world, exchanging money for little discs of silicone hydrogel that you put on your eyeballs would be a thing you can do without government interference. But in America, people are apparently too stupid to be trusted to make their own decisions at the local LensCrafters. The law states that you need a prescription to buy contact lenses, every time.
In China, I would just walk into the nearest optical shop, tell the staff what strength I need, and buy a box of Accuvue Oasys lenses. It could not be simpler, or safer.
One of the downsides of living in a hyper-regulated society like America in the current year is that the simplest activities are often preposterously time-consuming and expensive.
An eye exam typically costs anywhere from $50 to $250. Vision insurance can defray this cost, but the insurance plan can set you back $150-$180/year (or maybe $50/year for an employer-provided plan). Contact lens prescriptions are only valid for 1-2 years in most US states.
The exams are also a headache to schedule if you have a full-time job and anything resembling a social life, since the doctors are never available on a walk-in basis, shops are closed on Sunday, etc.
Qui bono? I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader. In any case, it’s definitely not me.