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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss National Teleseminar: Medicare Coverage of Low Vision Devices

Posted by: American Foundation for the Blind

Date: 10/4/2017

You're Invited!

RESOLVED—Medicare Should Pay for Low Vision Devices: Views Through Different Lenses

A national teleseminar hosted by the American Foundation for the Blind and the 21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss

***Sponsored by VFO***

Wednesday, October 4, 2017, 3pm Eastern

To join the call:

Dial: 1 (866) 939-3921
Enter code: 45490371

For further information, contact:

Mark Richert, Esq.
Director, Public Policy, AFB
(202) 469-6833
MRichert@afb.net

So, what's the problem?

For decades, the vision loss community has argued that our nation's public health care systems, particularly Medicare and Medicaid, are failing people who are blind or visually impaired because of their stark lack of comprehensive coverage for vision rehabilitation services and devices. Particularly with respect to low vision aids, the door to coverage, which had only been left standing slightly ajar for years, was slammed shut in 2008 with the publication of final rules by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) which currently bar any coverage for devices that incorporate a lens. CMS's stated rationale for this sweeping restriction has been that devices incorporating a lens are not unlike eye glasses and contacts for which Congress has not authorized any meaningful coverage.

So, let's change the law and get Medicare to pay for low vision devices, right? Not so fast!

While consumer advocates in the vision loss community (including AFB) are among the loudest voices calling for Medicare to assess the fiscal impact of permanent Medicare coverage for low vision devices through a congressionally mandated demonstration project, still other passionate professionals are vocalizing reservations. These prominent advocates in their own right are worried about the unforeseeable impact that CMS's meddling in the low vision device market may have on device cost, corporate profit and ultimately on the out-of-pocket burden on consumers who purchase devices outside of the Medicare system. Likewise, a chorus of concerned physicians and other conscientious practitioners are worried that the indiscriminate availability of low vision devices through Medicare has the untenable potential both to place inappropriate, and therefore possibly risky, devices in the hands of unsuspecting consumers and to tempt unscrupulous providers into pushing the priciest equipment irrespective of consumer need.

Nevertheless, proponents of Medicare coverage for low vision devices and other assistive technologies argue that CMS's willingness to authorize payment for rehabilitative devices and services to address a host of disabling conditions but not for vision loss is a discriminatory practice and a fundamental inequity in our national approach to public health. Moreover, these advocates contend that any wasteful or inappropriate payment for devices which might result from permanent coverage of low vision aids relates to systemic challenges inherent in the national administration of the Medicare program itself and should not be an excuse to keep devices out of the hands of Medicare beneficiaries with vision loss who clearly need them.

So, let's Talk!

With the generous sponsorship of our friends at VFO™, a global company innovating in accessibility, you are invited to join in a national dialogue and debate about these issues and to assess whether and how Medicare should pay for low vision devices and potentially other assistive technologies.

On Wednesday afternoon, October 4, at 3pm Eastern, join in a lively discussion with a panel of experts and advocates from across the spectrum of concerns about permanent Medicare coverage for low vision devices. These prominent panelists are coming from the ophthalmic, optometric, low vision, assistive technology, frontline blindness field practitioner, public and private service provider agency, consumer and related communities. Hear what they have to say, assess for yourself whether you agree with their diverse perspectives, and engage with them interactively to make your own case and learn how you can contribute effectively in the shared goal of getting appropriate and affordable equipment and training into the hands of every person with vision loss who may need it.

So how do I join the fray?

To join this free 90-minute national teleseminar by phone:

Dial: 1 (866) 939-3921

Enter code: 45490371

Please call in a few minutes prior to the prompt 3pm Eastern start time on Wednesday, October 4. And please share this announcement and open invitation far and wide via your own networks. It is our hope that this friendly but frank conversation will help the vision loss community further develop an actionable consensus for achieving systems change toward a world with no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. We look forward to your participation!

Age Groups

40 – 54
55-64
65 or over
NA or prefer not to answer

Interest Categories

Finding help, including low vision services or rehabilitation services
How to live with vision loss—tips and strategies for making daily life w/ vision loss easier and safer!
Assistive technology/helpful products
Information specifically for seniors with vision loss
Information for professionals in the blindness or low vision fields
Information for professionals who work in other fields

Contact: Sarah Malaier

Phone: (202) 469-6831

Email: smalaier@afb.net

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