http://capuano.house.gov/news

Rep. Michael Capuano Files Legislation to Help Seniors Maintain Their Independence

June 27, 2001 -- Representative Michael Capuano (D-MA) has reintroduced the "Medicare Vision Rehabilitation Services Act of 2001" which would reimburse, under Medicare Part B, vision rehabilitation professionals for services provided, including services provided in the home. Currently 6.6 million Americans over the age of 65 report some level of vision impairment.

"My own mother, who suffers from vision impairment, benefited tremendously from the rehabilitation services provided by the Greater Boston Aid to the Blind. The training and therapy she received help her to avoid the injuries and loss of independence that often accompany vision impairment. Unfortunately, Medicare does not currently cover programs like this and not all seniors can afford the services on their own," Rep. Capuano stated.

Vision rehabilitation services teach seniors who suffer from permanent vision impairment how to continue living independently with this loss. Medicare beneficiaries who are blind or whose vision difficulties cannot be addressed by surgery, medication or corrective lenses could be eligible for services provided by certified vision rehabilitation professionals under the legislation. Vision rehabilitation professionals teach the skills needed to continue living safely and independently. Examples of services covered include independent living skills and training in safe methods of travel.

Age-related visual impairment is second only to arthritis/rheumatism as a cause of disability. However, due to a lack of awareness about the services available as well as a lack of funding, only 2% of the visually impaired have benefited from vision rehabilitation services. Visual impairment is one of four major conditions contributing to a senior's loss of independence. The nonprofit Alliance for Aging Research has determined based on data from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey that a loss of independence by older adults costs the United States an additional $26 billion a year.

"The type of vision rehabilitation covered under this legislation could save the Medicare program millions of dollars in costs associated with injuries such as broken bones which are often caused by vision impairment. A person suffering from an injury such as a hip fracture would be eligible for reimbursable therapeutic services. Why shouldn't a person who suffers from vision loss be afforded the same services under Medicare?" stated Rep. Capuano.

The following members of Congress joined me in introducing the legislation: Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), and Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL). The American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Opthalmology also support the legislation, which was referred to the House Energy Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

ORGANIZATIONS ENDORSING BILL

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • American Optometric Association
  • Association and Board of Education and Services for the Blind (Windsor, CT)
  • Independence and Information for the Blind
  • National Vision Rehabilitation Cooperative
  • Lighthouse International (New York, NY)
  • American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
  • Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired Goodwill Industries (Rochester, NY)
  • Badger Association of the Blind, Inc. (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Blinded Veterans Association
  • Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (Utica, NY)
  • Cincinnati Association for the Blind (Cincinnati, OH)
  • Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (Washington, D.C.)
  • Community Services for the Blind and Partially Sighted (Seattle, WA)
  • Envision (Wichita, KS)
  • Greater Boston Aid to the Blind (Boston, MA)
  • Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind (Port Richey, FL)
  • Metrolina Association for the Blind (Charlotte, NC)
  • Monroe County Women's Disability Network (Pittsfield, NY)
  • New Hampshire Association for the Blind (Concord, NH)
  • Pittsburgh Vision Services (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Rose Resnick Lighthouse (San Francisco, CA)
  • St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired (St. Louis, MO)
  • San Diego Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (San Diego, CA)
  • Upshaw Institute for the Blind (Detroit, MI)
  • Vision Rehabilitation, Inc. (Elyria, OH)
  • VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (New York, NY)
  • Watson Center (Largo, FL)