The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation (H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019) that seeks to lower prescription drug costs through a variety of changes to the Medicare program. The legislation projects cost savings of $456 billion over 10 years. Based on these savings, the legislation includes provisions to expand vision services (specifically, routine eye exams and eyeglasses or contact lenses) in the Medicare program. Currently, Medicare only covers vision services if they relate to a medical condition or underlying disease, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or cataracts.
Prevent Blindness is grateful that Congress recognizes the importance of ensuring our aging population can access eye care services. Medicare is one of the primary means of accessing quality healthcare for our nation’s older adults. Maintaining healthy vision throughout the aging processes ensures that Americans can maintain a high quality of life and independence while reducing the risk of falls, chronic disease, and cognitive decline. However, the legislation also includes provisions that could potentially harm access to current and emerging treatments that help slow the progression of blinding eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration—a disease that affects more than 10 million Americans.
As Congress continues to work to close gaps in vision care access, including providing preventive care to detect and treat eye diseases, and lower prescription drug costs for patients, Prevent Blindness stands ready to work with Congress to develop and enact policies that achieve both goals without potentially limiting access to patients who live with progressive vision loss and impairing eye diseases.