Medicare and Low Vision

    In the midst of all this discussion about the healthcare system, the question arises: who pays for the cost of low vision.
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    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.
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    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.
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    Education, Decision, then Action.
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For more information, write your Congressman.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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