If you are desperately trying to find eyecare resources for your community for the new influx of unemployed and uninsured the National Eye Institute has published a helpful list:
Financial Aid for Eye Care
Many state and national resources regularly provide aid to people with vision problems. The National Eye Institute, which supports eye research, does not help individuals pay for eye care. However, if you are in need of financial aid to assess or treat an eye problem, you might contact one or more of the following programs.
You may also contact a social worker at a local hospital or other community agency. Social workers often are knowledgeable about community resources that can help people facing financial and medical problems.
Eye Exams and Surgery
- EyeCare America, a public service foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Provides comprehensive eye exams and care for up to one year, often at no out-of-pocket expense to eligible callers through its seniors and Diabetes EyeCare Programs. Its Glaucoma EyeCare Program provides a glaucoma eye exam. The EyeCare America Children’s EyeCare Program educates parents and primary care providers about the importance of early childhood (newborn through 36 months of age) eye care. Telephone: 1-800-222-EYES (3937).
- VISION USA, coordinated by the American Optometric Association (AOA), provides free eye care to uninsured, low-income workers and their families. Telephone: 1-800-766-4466.
- Lions Clubs International provides financial assistance to individuals for eye care through local clubs.
- Mission Cataract USA, coordinated by the Volunteer Eye Surgeons’ Association, is a program providing free cataract surgery to people of all ages who have no other means to pay. Surgeries are scheduled annually on one day, usually in May. Telephone: 1-800-343-7265.
- Knights Templar Eye Foundation provides assistance for eye surgery for people who are unable to pay or receive adequate assistance from current government agencies or similar sources. Mailing address: 1000 East State Parkway, Suite I, Schaumburg, IL 60173. Telephone: (847) 490-3838. .
- InfantSEE® is a public health program designed to ensure early detection of eye conditions in babies. Member optometrists provide a free comprehensive infant eye assessment to children younger than one year. Telephone: 1-888-396-3937.
- Sight for Students, a Vision Service Plan (VSP) program provides eye exams and glasses to children 18 years and younger whose families cannot afford vision care. Telephone: 1-888-290-4964.
- New Eyes for the Needy provides vouchers for the purchase of new prescription eyeglasses. Mailing address: 549 Millburn Avenue, P.O. Box 332, Short Hills, NJ 07078-0332. Telephone: (973) 376-4903.
- The Medicine Program assists people to enroll in one or more of the many patient assistance programs that provide prescription medicine free-of-charge to those in need. Patients must meet the sponsor’s criteria. The program is conducted in cooperation with the patient’s doctor. Mailing Address: P.O. Box 4182, Poplar Bluff, MO 63902-4182. Telephone: 1-866-694-3893. E-mail:
- Partnership for Prescription Assistance offers a single point of access to more than 475 public and private patient assistance programs, including more than 150 programs offered by pharmaceutical companies. Telephone: 1-888-477-2669.
- Medicare Benefit for Eye Exams
For People with Diabetes — People with Medicare who have diabetes can get a dilated eye exam to check for diabetic eye disease. Your doctor will decide how often you need this exam.
For People at Risk for Glaucoma — Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss. People at high risk for glaucoma include those with diabetes or a family history of glaucoma, or African Americans age 50 or older. Medicare will pay for an eye exam to check for glaucoma once every 12 months.
Patients must pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount after the yearly Part B deductible. Telephone: 1-800-633-4227.
- State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
For little or no cost, this insurance pays for doctor visits, prescription medicines, hospitalizations, and much more for children 18 years and younger. Most states also cover the cost of dental care, eye care, and medical equipment. Telephone: 1-877-543-7669. Insure Kids Now!
The National Eye Institute (NEI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is the Federal government’s lead agency for vision research that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness.
One other thing to be aware of are local community providers. In years gone past, the local health providers were independent small businesses and helping out in the community was the norm. Today health care has become a more of a massive industry and smaller doctors offices are weighted down with high overhead and hours of paperwork. Still, there are doctors in almost every community that provide thousands of hours of pro bono (free) health care. Careful needs screenings are the most essential components to enlist the local medical community. Nothing brings as abrupt a halt to community involvement as poorly screened clients who have lifestyles well above the provider and staff that are serving them.
Services are available if you do an excellent job of screening, give recognition and support to participating providors. A hotel or travel agent could donate a mini retreat to doctors offoces and staffs who see large numberes of pateients free, even recognition as small and an office meal and thank you cards can go a long way.
Finally, make sure the patients arrive on time at the right place. They may have many things on their minds and be suffering from depression, anxiety, or other problems common to the newly unemployed. Look for creative ways to build partnerships and get people the health care they truly need.