Healthy eyes and clear vision are important for the child learning to read, the adult at work on a computer and for the senior at risk for an age-related eye condition. Although some may take vision for granted, America's visual well-being is and will continue to be a pressing health care policy challenge:
Doctors of Optometry are playing a leading role in meeting this challenge head on. Optometrists are America's frontline providers of eye and vision care, treating patients of all ages in 6,500 communities across the country and providing a range of services, including detecting and diagnosing eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, retinal disorders and eye infections; treating eye diseases; and evaluating and treating presbyopia and other vision conditions. In more than 3,500 communities from coast to coast, optometrists are the only eye doctors.
Although eye care is recognized as an essential component of health care, some states are considering further Medicaid cuts that would target these services. Other states continue to allow a loophole in the Medicaid statute to restrict coverage of primary eye care only to certain providers, thereby excluding optometrists and limiting access to care for those most in need.
These access problems can and should be corrected by Congress.
Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), John Boozman, O.D. (R-AR), Albert Wynn (D-MD), and Mary Bono (R-CA) have introduced the Optometric Equity in Medicaid Act (HR 1983), a bill to provide a common-sense update to the Medicaid law by applying to it the Medicare definition of a physician, which includes optometrists.
HR 1983 would simply confirm for state government bureaucrats and Medicaid third-party payers that optometrists are fully able to provide medical eye care services to Medicaid patients – just as they do for Medicare and private-pay patients throughout the country. According to a recent study of the bill’s impact, it will efficiently eliminate significant barriers to care without creating any new costs for the Federal government. Most importantly though, HR 1983 will increase access to eye care for school-aged children and working adults who need it most.