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Special Article
October 11, 2010

Medicare Coverage for Vision Assistive Equipment

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: The Jewish Guild for the Blind (Drs Morse and Cole and Ms O’Hearn), Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York–Presbyterian Hospital (Dr Hsu), Department of Ophthalmology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (Drs Morse and Cole) and Lighthouse International (Dr Faye), New York, and Departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx (Dr Wainapel), New York; Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center, Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland (Dr Massof); Department of Ophthalmology, Center for Vision Rehabilitation and Research, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, Michigan (Dr Mogk); and Vision Rehabilitation Service, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston (Dr Jackson).

Arch Ophthalmol. 2010;128(10):1350-1357. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2010.228

Vision loss that cannot be corrected medically, surgically, or by refractive means is considered low vision. Low vision often results in impairment of daily activities, loss of independence, increased risk of fractures, excess health care expense, and reduced physical functioning, quality of life, and life expectancy. Vision rehabilitation can enable more independent functioning for individuals with low vision. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recognizes the importance of rehabilitation for achieving medically necessary goals but has denied Medicare coverage for vision assistive equipment that is necessary to complete these goals, although they provide coverage for assistive equipment to provide compensation for other disabilities. We believe that this is discriminatory and does not comport with congressional intent. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should provide coverage for vision assistive equipment, allowing beneficiaries with vision loss to benefit fully from Medicare-covered rehabilitation to achieve the cost-effective results of these services.