[bksvol-discuss] O T article medicare pays for 9 hours of visual rehab

  • From: "Estelnalissi" <airadil@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <bksvol-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 29 Aug 2006 19:10:59 -0400

Dear Friends,

This article contains information which may be helpful to some of you or to someone you know.

EmaxHealth.com Thursday, August 24, 2006

Medicare Starts Paying for Visual Rehabilitation Services

Medicare and Vision Rehabilitation

People who qualify for Medicare and whose eyesight has significantly
declined due to macular degeneration, diabetes or certain other conditions
can now get up to nine hours of vision rehabilitation through a new
Medicare-sponsored demonstration project.

The five-year project is available in six areas of the United States.
It will allow the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to study
the demand for - and effectiveness of - services aimed at helping visually
impaired individuals make the most of their remaining vision.

"This is really good news for many older people with low vision,"
said Dr. Henry Greene, an optometrist who is a clinical professor in the
department of ophthalmology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill School of Medicine. "Now, when an ophthalmologist or optometrist
prescribes therapy for those with visual impairments, Medicare will help pay
for rehabilitation services in the areas selected."

After the project concludes, administrators will decide whether to extend
reimbursement for those services to all Medicare recipients across the
country, Greene said. "We think there's a strong possibility that they'll do

To be eligible, Medicare beneficiaries must live in Atlanta, Ga., New York
City, New Hampshire, Kansas, North Carolina or the state of Washington or
their eye doctors must practice there, he said. Visually impaired
individuals are those whose vision cannot be improved with conventional
eyeglasses, medications or surgery.

In the six areas chosen, Medicare will pay for therapy services provided in
clinics or at home by certified vision rehabilitation therapists,
orientation and mobility specialists, low vision therapists and occupational
therapists but not the low vision aids themselves.

"After ophthalmologists have done as much as they can in treating patients
with eye diseases medically or surgically, there are three aspects to
helping patients with low vision," Greene said. "One is evaluating the level
of their remaining vision and determining their personal functioning needs.
Another is determining what powers and which types of magnifiers,
telescopes, bioptics or hi-tech electronic devices are most appropriate. The
third aspect is the training involved to help individuals be as successful
with the devices as possible."

Greene is a co-founder of Ocutech, a Chapel Hill company that develops and
manufactures miniaturized telescopic devices, called bioptics. As Ocutech's
research director, he travels extensively to teach doctors how to evaluate
and treat visually impaired patients with bioptic devices.

Ocutech made medical news around the globe in 1997 when it announced
development of the world's first self-focusing bioptic glasses - the Ocutech
VES-AutoFocus Telescope System. These lightweight telescopes, which sit atop
regular eyeglasses, are now prescribed worldwide by low vision specialists.
A less expensive manually focused version also is available.

Before development of the telescopic aides, patients would often have to sit
inches away from a computer screen or television, Greene said.
They had no
way to see store shelves, restaurant menus, bus numbers and traffic signs
while traveling or friends and family from across a room.

Macular degeneration, or failing central vision, is the most common
vision-impairing disease of the elderly except for cataracts, he said. About
a million new cases of the condition are diagnosed in this country each year
and the numbers are growing. But, while cataracts can be surgically removed
with vision usually returning to normal, vision loss from macular
degeneration, even with the newest treatments, cannot be restored to normal.
Other conditions that low vision aids often help include the visual
complications of diabetes, nystagmus, optic atrophy, albinism, multiple
sclerosis and macular holes.

"Reading is often the first challenge that visually impaired individuals
face," Greene said. "Fortunately, people with low vision can get the printed
word in many ways, such as by listening to television, radio and books on
tape, but that's not true for personal contact.

"The world around us - our friends, family, grandchildren or a pretty flower
or picture - can't be appreciated nearly so well when it's described to us,"
he said. "Not being able to see as well as they did before can cause folks
to feel isolated and depressed. It is enormously gratifying when these
bioptic telescopes help people stay more connected with their families and
more engaged in life. The impact they can have on individuals'
quality of life can be


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