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for the Blind

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Medicare Agency Moves to Deny Seniors and People with Disabilities Important Low Vision Devices

Disability Groups Mobilize to Protect Coverage

Washington, DC (May 5, 2006)—This week the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its intention to bar coverage of low vision devices, including closed-circuit television systems (CCTVs), magnifiers, and other low vision technology designed to help people with vision loss live healthy and independent lives. The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and other disability rights groups are working quickly to ensure the proposal doesn't take effect.

"Barring coverage of low vision devices would have devastating effects on the quality of life of aging Americans and others with vision loss," said Carl R. Augusto, AFB's President & CEO. "These tools are the very key to remaining active and living independently and safely with eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy."

The announcement comes at time when the number of Americans with eye diseases is increasing and vision loss is expected to become a major public health problem as boomers age. Over 6.5 million Americans aged 55 and older are blind or severely visually impaired. These numbers are expected to more than double by the year 2030.

"Low vision devices are designed to help people read, write, watch television, speak on the telephone, keep track of time, and cook," added Augusto. "And while some products are more affordable, some can run in the $1,800 to $4,000 range, which is a hefty investment for seniors or people with disabilities in tough financial situations."

AFB is urging advocates and the public to electronically respond to the regulatory action by June 30, 2006. CMS is accepting comments from the public at
www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/oc/dockets/comments/
getDocketInfo.cfm?EC_DOCUMENT_ID=100&SORT=&
MAXROWS=15&START=1&CID=&AGENCY=CMS

To read the full text of the notice of proposed rule making from CMS visit
http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20061800/
edocket.access.gpo.gov/2006/06-3982.htm
.
Sections I. J. and II. Q refer to the "Low Vision Aid Exclusion."

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Media contact:
Adrianna Montague-Gray
212.502.7675
amontaguegray@afb.net

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