Bill Seeks to Provide Vision Coverage in Medicare, Lowering Costs for Seniors

October 22, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – A quartet of House Democrats want to see Medicare Part B coverage expanded to include routine vision benefits.

Right now, Medicare only covers surgery and screenings for people who are at a high risk of getting cataracts and glaucoma, but it but does not cover routine eye exams

As a result, only about 57% of Medicare beneficiaries with vision problems said they have received an eye exam during the previous year.

A recent study by University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center shows 92% of older adults enrolled in Medicare use eyeglasses.

Hoping to affordably bring better vision to more seniors, Reps. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich, Kim Schreier, D-Wash., Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., and Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., have introduced H.R. 4665, the Medicare Vision Act.

“Seniors on Medicare should have their vision care covered. Period,” Rep. Slotkin said. “Preventative eye exams and corrective lenses are an essential part of healthcare — but can be out of reach to older Americans since Medicare doesn’t currently cover vision care. I’m proud that my colleagues and I introduced this bill to strengthen Medicare and lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors.”

The Medicare Vision Act of 2019 will:

·       Expand Medicare Part B coverage to include routine eye exams, procedures, and contact lens fitting services;

·       Provide coverage for one pair of eyeglasses or a two-year supply of contact lenses.

“As seniors age, we want to make sure that they can live independent lives for as long as possible,” Rep. Schrier said. “Part of this is making sure that they can see well enough to drive to appointments, walk safely around the house, and carefully read prescriptions.”

“As a doctor, I am concerned about the number of older Americans who haven’t had an eye exam in over a year and might have undiagnosed eye conditions, like macular degeneration or glaucoma,” Schrier continued. “Also, poor vision can limit physical activity and increase isolation. Those, in turn, can lead to deteriorating health. By expanding Medicare Part B to cover vision care, we will ensure that older Americans will be able to access this care at a cost that isn’t prohibitive.”

“Eyeglasses and routine eye exams are essential components of health care for Arizona seniors, and should be covered under Medicare,” said Rep. O’Halleran, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Seniors have paid into the Medicare program their entire lives; they deserve the highest quality, comprehensive care as they age. I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce this commonsense legislation,” he added.

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