Thursday, January 30, 2014

February is National Low Vision Awareness Month - National Eye Institute

"Low vision is a term commonly used among eye care professionals to indicate partial sight, or sight that cannot be fully corrected with surgery, medications, contact lenses, or glasses. For people with low vision, the quality of their vision interferes with their ability to perform everyday activities, such as reading the mail, shopping, cooking, writing, watching television, and driving. 

Low vision is not a natural part of getting older, and it can happen to people of any age. One reason it occurs most often in older adults is that they are most likely to contract the diseases that cause low vision, including macular degeneration. Age related 
Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a disease that blurs the sharp, central vision you need for “straight-ahead” activities such as reading, sewing, and driving. AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. While there is no cure for 
AMD, there are treatment options to stabilize the vision loss. Prevention is the key to minimize the risk of AMD by following a healthy, low fat diet, and wearing sun glasses for protection from ultraviolet rays. If you smoke, make a plan to quit as tobacco 
prevents the absorption of Lutein (an antioxidant) which is essential for good eye health. And see your eye care professional annually for a thorough eye exam. 

People with low vision should be aware rehabilitation services such as training in the use of magnification devices, electronic devices, computer-assistance devices, are available through Service to the Blind and Visually Impaired. These services help people maximize their remaining vision or learn alternate ways to do activities around their community and home." 

Source: National Eye Institute

To learn more:

Please contact the Mid Hudson Valley Low Vision Network for more information about low vision and vision rehabilitation services in your area. 

Representatives are also available to provide community education programs about living with low vision/vision loss.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Legislative Bill Would Establish Medicare Demo to Cover Video Magnifiers

For decades, the vision loss community has been advocating for Medicare's coverage of assistive technologies, particularly for devices for low-vision users. Currently, Medicare will not pay for any device that happens to use a lens, regardless of whether such device incorporates any other features. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for the management of Medicare, has ruled that devices, such as low-vision devices, that use a lens are excluded from coverage just as eyeglasses or contact lenses are, except in very narrow circumstances.
Now, for the first time, federal legislation may begin to change this unacceptable national policy by establishing a nationwide Medicare demonstration project to evaluate the fiscal impact of a permanent change in Medicare coverage to pay for low vision devices. The legislation, H.R. 3749, introduced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), would initiate a five-year demonstration project that would put low-vision devices in the hands of Medicare beneficiaries who, after a clinical evaluation by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, can benefit from a low-vision device and for whom such devices are medically necessary. The legislation is careful to require that the demonstration project be genuinely national in scope and is explicitly designed to yield reliable data and meaningful results. Once the legislation is enacted and the demonstration project is successfully completed, Congress will have significantly richer data upon which to consider changes to the Medicare program to make coverage of low-vision devices, especially the most costly devices, a permanent feature of the program. Precisely how many individuals will receive low-vision devices and how many physicians across the country will participate in the demo project will need to be determined by CMS, working in consultation with stakeholder groups, as it develops and implements the project. The legislation makes $12.5 million available for the project over five years.
The work that has led to the introduction of this important legislation should serve as a primer on how our field can effectively influence the policy process through joint labor. The American Council of the Blind (ACB) initiated the national effort to refocus our field's attention on the need to address Medicare coverage for low-vision devices. The nationally representative team of consumer, professional, and industry advocates that ACB brought together considered a variety of approaches to tackling the low-vision device coverage issue. The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), as a participant in the ACB initiative, proposed that our field pursue a national Medicare demonstration project and prepared the legislative text that has been introduced in Congress. In addition to ACB's extensive advocacy on Capitol Hill, the VisionServe Alliance made this issue one of its principle legislative priorities at ACB's request when VisionServe members visited Capitol Hill last April. Lighthouse International, supported by other VisionServe leadership and member organizations, was determinative in securing our congressional champions. This field-wide collaboration serves as an example of the kind of effort that is best positioned to achieve results.
Advocates are encouraged to contact their members of the U.S. House of Representatives and urge them to co-sponsor H.R. 3749. We are actively working on Senate champions and will keep you updated as progress is made. Thank you for your advocacy!

For further information, please contact:
Mark Richert, Esq.
Director, Public Policy
American Foundation for the Blind
Phone: (202) 469-6833

Friday, January 17, 2014

RIP Ed Blodgett

It is with a heavy heart that we share the passing of one of the Mid Hudson Valley Low Vision Network's founding members and dear friend, Ed Blodgett.

Always a gentleman, with a gentle humor, Ed was dedicated to serving his community.  As a long time member of the Dutchess County Lions, Ed's leadership and caring for others touched many.

We will miss his leadership, creativity and compassion. We will miss our friend.