Medicare and Low Vision, continued

August 21, 2012

It has been pointed out to me that our first article might not have been clear. So we will atempt to clarify our position.

What we haven’t made clear is that this blog as a journal has been almost 500 articles on low vision assistive technology, not assistive technology in general. Low Vision is an affliction generally of the aged. These are people who are almost all on Medicare. They are not blind. Instead everything is blurry either in their central retina where we read (the macula) or in patches throughout the retina. As of now, it cannot be cured. It can be compensated for with magnification and improved contrast. These many and various methods of compensation make up Low Vision Assistive Technology.
The point of the article is how Medicare singles out those with Low Vision and discriminates against them. Medicare pays for walkers and power wheel chairs for the lame. Medicare pays for CPAP machines for those with sleep and breathing disorders. Medicare will pay for prosthetic arms or legs. Medicare pays for orthotic leg, arm, back or neck braces. They pay for diabetic glucose testing  and even diabetic shoes.
They do NOT pay for any Low Vision aids. (They also don’t pay for hearing aids.)
Since people with low vision must pay for these devices out of their own pocket, we hope to make them better consumers. Hence the last paragraph is the plan for a future series, showing good, better and cheapest. One example which  we will cover in detail is the so-called CCTV for $1,500 (what you want to read is magnified on an HD monitor). A better one for $2,500 actually reads  the  prescription directions to you. The cheap way for only $175 is called the Miracle Mouse: a camera and an LED  in a mouse body that plugs into a USB port and uses your computer to do the rest.
Here is an outline of the low vision aids we intend to cover.

Low Vision Products

1. Magnification

Desktop CCTV

Computer screen magnifier

Portable Electronic Magnifier


Magnifying glass with LED

2. Speech devices

CCTV with speech

Computer screen magnifier with speech

KNFB Reader

OCR Book Reader

Kindle Book Reader

3. Telescopic Eyeglasses

 4. Misc hardware

Special Keyboards with and without backlighting

Auxiliary Speakers


5. Software for computers & Apps for iPods and SmartPhones


Screen magnifier

Simple computer controls


Dragon Naturally Speaking


Chemical Reverses Blindness in Lab Mice

August 20, 2012

Researchers are closer to finding a way to restore sight for patients blinded by certain types of macular degeneration.

Senior Health Correspondent Monica Robins shows us how injection therapy may hold more promise than previously thought.

Macular degeneration has been a condition that we haven’t been able to do a lot for. For many years we had no treatment. We had to tell people, go home, use more light, use magnification, but we really can’t help you.

A team of reserachers at University of california at Berkeley found a temporary return of vision to blind mice by injecting an ammonium chemical.

The chemical incraeses the sensitvity of light to the eyes, which allowed the mice to see.

It’s the first sign that we can actually inject something into the eye that will reverse the damage done to cell called photo receptors which cause blindness.

The ability to inject chemicals to cure blindness is a greater step than previous research that has been more permanent, like gene thearpy.

The chemicals are gone when they’re gone. So, if it doesn’t work or it causes problems, the chemical is out of the eye and essentially you’ve turned off the treatment. You don’t have to worry about what it might be doing from that point on.

Turmeric and Wet AMD

August 20, 2012

This item is from the Peoples Pharmacy:

Q: I am curious about turmeric. I have osteoarthritis and read that turmeric might help joint pain.

I also am under a doctor’s care for macular degeneration. As a result, I cannot take aspirin or blood thinners. Does turmeric thin the blood?

A: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is characterized as “dry” or “wet,” depending upon the stage of the disease and the abnormal growth of blood vessels that can leak at the back of the eye. Doctors advise against aspirin and anticoagulants for those with wet AMD to reduce the risk of bleeding inside the eye (Retina, November-December 2010).

There is growing evidence that the yellow spice turmeric, used in curry and yellow mustard, has anti-inflammatory properties. The active ingredient, curcumin, also may possess anticoagulant activity, however (BMB Reports, April 2012). We have heard from a number of readers that combining turmeric with the anticoagulant warfarin (Coumadin) can lead to an increased risk of bleeding. This spice might be too dangerous for you.

Medicare and Low Vision

August 19, 2012
    In the midst of all this discussion about the healthcare system, the question arises: who pays for the cost of low vision.
    Does Medicare cover Low Vision? The answer is yes and no. It covers the medical and surgical costs. It does not cover Assistive Technology. Medicare considers Assistive Devices the same as eyeglasses. They don’t cover anything with a lens. Ironically, the Veterans Administration considers them as Prosthetics and does cover them.
    Basically, Medicare covers only the medical side of low vision (exams, surgery, injections, etc.) but not any devices (monoculars, telescopic eyeglasses, CCTVs, etc.) It covers Doctors, not Optometrists. However the VA does cover these devices.
    The difference comes from how they interpret these devices. Medicare says they contain lenses and therefore they are treated like eyeglasses, i.e. not covered. The VA says they are prosthetics and therefore are covered. God save us from bureaucrats.
    Since most Low Vision problems occur in our Medicare years, what can we do? We need these devices to read. If not “War and Peace” then for every day needs like prescription bottles, bus schedules and TV Guide. We cannot passively accept the bad decisions of politicians.
    We will do what adults must do. We will pay for them out of pocket. Then help stamp out stupidity. Replace the indifferent politicians.
    Low Vision Assistive Technology is expensive. But so are vacations, dental care and a car. We should buy the best we can afford. Make smart choices. If we can’t afford a $3,000 CCTV, then we should buy a $50 illuminated magnifying glass. We should learn what our alternatives are. Buy wisely.
    With that in mind, this blog will be doing a series of articles on Assistive Technology. What is available and what are our alternatives. There is a solution we all can afford. Together we will review what are the best solutions and what are adequate substitutes.
    Education, Decision, then Action.
For more information, write your Congressman.
Comment from Gail Johnson:
I agree. I am happy to share any information about my use of assistive technology, uses of creative methods of making assistive technology and then, turn Assistive Technology into Assertive Technology.
Most politicians have no idea what it is like to live with low vision. Unless one has lost considerable vision, one can not know how one copes., Our financial resources are being tightened each day so one must make good decisions when buying low vision equipment which is suitable to that person. Remember, what you need, may not be what I need.
Perhaps, our regular readers will be encouraged to “speak up”, too.
I vote yes for Education, Decision, then Action!
Comment from Lauren Tappan:
   It might be good to mention that another solution besides voting etc. is to join or become aware of what NFB (National Federation for the Blind) is doing politically.  At least they have been in the trenches with the Governor’s Advocacy committee and have been a lobbying force state wide and Nationally.  They have sponsored and supported Newsline as well as scholarships for Blind College students.  They have no special funding but dig into the pockets o some people that rely only on Social Security for their income.
    Another resource t you might mention is the Lion’s Club.  They have helped to purchase AT equipment in a few cases.
    You might also mention the Partnership in Assistive Technology in Raleigh.  They might still have an AT loan program as minimal as it is.
      I would say personally that without my AT equipment I am like a fish out of water.  I think that AT equipment is like purchasing a wheelchair for someone that can’t easily walk on their own.
      What is needed is a strong lobby and understanding of the effects and needs of people that are blind or have low-vision. Maybe this will happen in another century or two.
Comment from Jerry Mansell:
Unfortunately OD’s are covered only for exams but not refractions. OT’s are covered on an hourly basis with authorization from a low vision physician for some types on training and therapy.

Major Breakthrough In Dry Macular Degeneration

August 13, 2012

University of Kentucky researchers, led by Dr. Jayakrishna Ambati, have made an exciting finding in the “dry” form of age-related macular degeneration known as geographic atrophy (GA). GA is an untreatable condition that causes blindness in millions of individuals due to death of retinal pigmented epithelial cells.

Ambati and colleagues found evidence that activity of the inflammasome, IL-18, and MyD88 were all increased in human eyes with GA. They then showed that blocking any of these components could prevent retinal degeneration in multiple disease models. The researchers are excited that blocking these pathways could herald a new potential therapy for GA, for which there is no approved treatment.

For more info:

FDA Approves First Drug for Diabetic Eye Disease

August 13, 2012

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday gave its approval to the drug Lucentis as a treatment for diabetic macular edema (DME), making it the first medicine approved for the ailment.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DME occurs when fluid enters the macula, the central part of the eye’s retina. This causes the macula to expand, blurring vision. Because up to 26 million Americans have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, this eye condition is a major source of new-onset vision loss, the FDA said. In 2010, 3.9 million diabetic adults had trouble with their vision.

Diabetes is a major public health issue in our country, and all patients with diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic macular edema. Laser surgery has been the only approved treatment until now for DME.

For more info:

Cruises and Tours for the Blind and Low Visioned

August 8, 2012

Lauren Tappan posted this.

Minds's Eye Travel, Inc.

Enriching the lives of people who are visually impaired or blind

Mind’s Eye Travel is an organization that creates tours for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Our prices include sighted guide assistance and help with the following:

  • Immigration Documents
  • Boarding Passes
  • Cruise Line Bag Tags
  • Embarkation & Disembarkation
  • Orientation & Mobility While Onboard Ship
  • Front Row Seating in Shows
  • Shore Excursions
  • Menu Assistance
  • Braille Deck Plans
  • Airline Bookings

Future Trips:

September 1, 2012 -September 6, 2012
Boston and Midcoast Maine
March 7, 2013 – March 17, 2013
Caribbean Cruise
May 23, 2013 – June 3, 2013
Scandinavia & Russia
For more info: