March 2007




AAO calls for stronger emphasis on preventative eye care



The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is calling for a stronger emphasis on providing preventative eye care for all Americans by Medicare and other medical insurance plans, according to a press release by PR Newswire. This is in response to a study published in the February issue of Ophthalmology, that found that vision loss and untreated vision problems are costing Medicare more than $2 billion per year in non-eye related maladies and healthcare needs, the press release said.

H. Dunbar Hoskins, M.D., executive vice president, American Academy of Ophthalmology, noted, “With the soaring costs of health care, this study is an important reminder that preventing vision loss saves both sight and money.” Both AAO and Jonathan C. Javitt, M.D., M.P.H, lead researcher on the study, said this study is a chance for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to build on both its landmark Medicare Glaucoma Detection Act of 2001, which covers an annual glaucoma screening for patients at risk, as well as its coverage of eye exams for diabetics, which has been available since 1998. However, awareness of these benefits is low, as less than 45 percent of Medicare diabetics have had an eye exam.

According to the release, Dr. Javitt said, “Medicare has already taken an important first step in making screenings available for those who are most at risk.” “CMS’s ‘welcome to Medicare’ physical examination should make vision assessment a key component of these visits with primary care physicians. If problems are found, physicians can refer those with problems to ophthalmologists for further care,” Dr. Javitt added.

The study looked at approximately 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled from 1999 to 2003 continuously and concluded that those with moderate, severe and total vision loss experienced increases in depression, injuries and the need for nursing home facilities, the release said.

The study also showed Medicare beneficiaries with coded diagnoses of vision loss incurred significantly higher costs than those with normal vision, and approximately 90 percent of those costs were non-eye related, the release said.

The study found $460 million was associated with those with existing vision loss and $1.68 billion was associated with those who developed vision loss during the study period, according to the release.

“These are all treatable conditions. If identified early, the adverse effects of glaucoma and AMD can be minimized, and cataracts can easily be treated,” Dr. Hoskins said.

Reported by: EyeWorld News Service

AAO calls for stronger emphasis on preventative eye care AAO calls for stronger emphasis on preventative eye care
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