Policy for the fine print

A normal range of vision. Courtesy NIH Nationa...

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Worsening vision is yet another sign we’re getting older. I picked up my new glasses last week, and was easily able to read this NY Times article about that topic. The photo on the right shows normal range of vision. If I take off my glasses, the picture loses its sharpness (courtesy National Eye Institute).

Even the health-conscious can forget about eye care until we suddenly can’t read the fine print. Or in my case, read it again. Apparently, my eyes are behaving quite normally, according to my ophthalmologist. It had been four years since my last exam; I thought it had only been two. Oops.

Most people’s vision gets progressively worse from their 40s through mid-60s. I had already been wearing progressive lenses – primarily for reading, computer work, and to correct an astigmatism in one eye. Apparently I now needed them more. Recently I realized I couldn’t see the “crawl” on CNN and needed brighter lights to read the newspaper, even with my glasses. Although I was way behind on my checkup, there fortunately, was no sign of eye disease like glaucoma or cataracts, but many people aren’t as lucky.

Still, a stronger prescription was yet another indication that age related health issues were happening – whether I admitted it to myself or not. Regular eye exams help ward off many issues, and as a health writer, I should know better. It’s easy not to think about your vision until it suddenly becomes a problem. Not a good idea – and Health Canada has some good tips on what to look out for.

Unfortunately for many of us, health insurance often does not cover eye exams, or if you are lucky, perhaps a portion of them. There are also many limitations on treatment such as Lasik surgery. Vision care often requires a supplemental policy.

Millions of people forego regular eye exams – not because they’re forgetful, but because they can’t afford them. The Affordable Care Act mandates vision care as part of pediatric services but does not have a similar mandate for adults. Vision USA provides free care to certain individuals and families that qualify based on income. Other organizations at state and city levels also provide vision care and even eyeglasses. The National Eye Institute has a good list of resources. As with private insurance, Medicare covers some services but with strict limitations.

Instead of letting the insurance companies or income levels dictate our eye health, how about revising The Affordable Care Act to include comprehensive vision care for everyone?

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