WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) on February 25 reintroduced the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act. This legislation would help vision-impaired Medicare beneficiaries live safe and independent lives by creating a five-year national demonstration project to evaluate the economic impact of allowing reimbursement for low vision devices, which are currently excluded from Medicare coverage.
“Medicare coverage of low vision devices would be life changing for Americans with vision impairments. It would give them the ability to partake in everyday activities, whether it be reading a book, watching television, or safely crossing the street. We must ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have affordable access to necessary medical devices,” said Rep. Maloney.
“As a visually impaired American, I have first-hand knowledge of the difficulties that accompany this condition. Simple tasks can be a significant challenge, and low-vision assistive devices are often required for essential life function. Sadly, many of these products are out of reach for seniors who live on a fixed income, and the devices’ exclusion from Medicare necessitates a difficult choice between extreme financial hardship or disengagement from these vital activities. I view this legislation as a preventative measure that will help seniors stay healthy, active, and self-sufficient for a longer period of time. This is not only better in terms of quality of life for our seniors, but also will result in reduced overall financial cost to the Medicare system. I am hopeful that the demonstration project authorized by this good, bipartisan legislation will help validate this approach,” said Rep. Bilirakis.
“The American Council of the Blind commends Representatives Maloney and Bilirakis for introducing this bipartisan legislation that will improve health equity for low vision Americans. Making these devices more affordable is imperative to increasing the independence and quality of life for people who are experiencing vision loss. ACB and our members urge Congress to support this important legislation,” said Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director.
“We applaud Reps. Maloney and Bilirakis for their steadfast leadership and support for providing greater access to low vision devices so seniors who are visually impaired can live safer, more independent lives,” said Kevin A. Lynch, President and CEO, National Industries for the Blind (NIB).
“The Medicare Low Vision Devices Act of 2022 will help enable thousands of adults with vision loss to remain in their own homes and avoid costly and unnecessarily placement in institutional settings,” said Jeff Thom, President, the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss.
“People with low vision often fear loss of independence and self-sufficiency as their vision declines. However, opportunities to retain independence are growing with the rapid development of multiple devices and technologies for use by people who have low vision. It is an unfortunate fact that often these devices and technologies are not affordable, and are excluded from existing Medicare coverage. The Medicare Demonstration Low Vision Bill is an important step toward updating Medicare coverage related to vision loss,” said Ms. Lee Nasehi, President & CEO, VisionServe Alliance.
“The Blinded Veterans Association supports the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2022. This legislation is a significant step to achieving coverage by authorizing a 5-year demonstration project to evaluate the fiscal impact of covering low vision devices as durable medical equipment under Medicare Part B. Although most of our members receive their low vision devices from VA, having Medicare coverage would offer more choice to visually impaired veterans who are Medicare eligible, especially those who live in rural areas far away from a VA Medical Center or VA Community Care provider. This also benefits the spouses who aren’t eligible to receive low vision devices from VA. This is long overdue, and I applaud it,” said Joseph D. McNeil,Sr., BVA National President.
“AFB thanks Representatives Maloney and Bilirakis for re-introducing this legislation. Access to appropriate low vision devices can make a world of difference in people’s continued ability to maintain a high quality of life and participate fully in their communities. We encourage all Members of Congress to support this bill,” said Stephanie Enyart, Chief Public Policy and Research Officer, American Foundation for the Blind.
In addition to Reps. Maloney and Bilirakis, this legislation has 25 original co-sponsors including Reps. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Don Bacon (R-NE), Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Andy Levin (D-MI), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Joseph Morelle (D-NY), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Scott Peters (D-CA), Katie Porter (D-CA), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Darren Soto (D-FL), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY), Mark Takano (D-CA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), and Susan Wild (D-PA).
This legislation is endorsed by the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss, American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, Blinded Veterans Association, Center for Independence of the Disabled New York, Council of Citizens with Low Vision International, Disability Rights Advocates, Lighthouse Guild, Lions Club International, National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind, National Industries for the Blind, National Organization on Disability, and VisionServe Alliance.
February is Low Vision Awareness Month. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 93 million Americans are at risk of serious vision loss. For someone with low vision, reading a book or crossing the street can be difficult, even with the help of glasses or contacts due to blurriness or distortion.
Physicians can prescribe magnifiers or special optical devices to aid those with vision loss. However, these devices are currently excluded from Medicare reimbursement, which greatly reduces access to them due to cost constraints. This exclusion hurts American seniors on fixed incomes and impedes their ability to lead healthy, safe, independent lives and enjoy everyday activities.
Under the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act, the Department of Health and Human Services would administer a five-year national demonstration project to evaluate the economic impact of allowing reimbursement for certain low vision devices under Medicare.