February 6, 2004
The Omnibus Appropriations bill that recently passed Congress includes a five-year nationwide trial of vision rehabilitation services under Medicare. This trial, based on a bill Congressman Capuano first filed in 1999, will provide needed services to older adults in the Medicare program who suffer from vision loss. Low vision and blindness are among the most common impairments in the Medicare population. Under the trial program, the costs of providing these individuals will be fully covered by Medicare.
"Medicare already covers broken bones and other injuries that are often the result of vision problems. Finally the issue of vision impairment will receive the attention it deserves," said Congressman Capuano. "Vision loss greatly impacts the lives of millions of American seniors. By providing vision rehabilitation services, these older adults will be able to regain their independence and prevent future injuries."
Vision impairment is one of the leading causes of a seniors' loss of independence and is the primary cause of hip fractures in older adults. According to the American Council of the Blind, In Massachusetts, 1 in 6 Massachusetts residents over 60 will suffer from blindness or vision impairment by 2005. Treatment for hip fractures alone cost more than $2.2 billion annually. If only 1 in 5 hip fractures were prevented through vision rehabilitation, the annual savings could approach $440 million. The benefit of providing vision rehabilitation services clearly outweigh their minimal cost.
The five year trial will study the affects of vision rehabilitation coverage and its impact on the Medicare population. A report will be issued to Congress at the end of the study.
"This legislation is a win for all involved. Seniors will receive vision rehabilitation services while the overall Medicare program will save money on more costly treatments for hip fractures and other injuries. I am hopeful that this trial program will result in all American seniors having access to these essential services," stated Congressman Capuano.
Contact: Alison M. Mills (617) 621-6208