Eyecare Resources For The Unemployed

Dr. Kisling Fort Collins Eye Doctor, Fort Collins Optometrist, Vision Insurance 9 Comments

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.

Prescription Drugs

  • 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.

Government Programs

  • 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.

Comments 9

  1. Post

    Depending on the area you live in should first check with the Lions Club. Providing funding for eyecare for people in you situation is one of their primary missions. Friends of Man is another organization that occasionally helps. You can also go to Vision USA at (www.aoa.org/x5607.xml)

  2. Rhonda B

    Diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes one year ago at age 46, as I was scheduling surgery, lost my job and insurance.

    now working as a temp in NV and am surely legally blind by now. I desperately need help, only source of income for my family right now but it’s not enough to afford insurance.

  3. Post

    Hi Rhonda,

    Try This:
    For more information about Mission Cataract USA surgeons, call 800-343-7265.
    Eyes of Arizona Vision and Surgery Center
    40 Capri Blvd, #102
    Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403
    Contact: Michelle Snyder

    Let Me Know If They Help

    Best Wishes

  4. Laura Johnson

    Unemployed 60 yr old diabetic with high pressure in both eyes. No insurance, can’t afford every 6 weeks eye exam, can’t afford medicene. High candidate for laser eye surgery. Live in New Jersey. What do I do, who can help me?

  5. Post

    Hi Laura,

    Two common drugs used to treat glaucoma are xalatan and timolol. Xalatan recently became available as a generic drug and there are assitance programs that can be found at the following link. Timoptic is usually on the $4.00 generic drug lists at places like Target and Walmart.

    You should check with the local Lions Club for help with an eye exam. You can also check with
    VISION USA 1-800-766-4466
    EyeCare America at are America” rel=”nofollow”>

    Best Wishes

  6. Matthew B.

    My girlfriends sight has been progressively getting worse for the past six months. She finally admitted to me that she was diagnosed with cataracts over a year ago but chose to do nothing about it. Her unemployment is on the verge of expiring and it has come to the point that she can no longer drive. Although I can take off from work at times I am having trouble doing the leg work to figure out who to have her contact and she can barely read a computer screen any longer. Any suggestions on who to contact in the Daytona FL area and how to go about it. I can give her transportation but feel she’s needs to get the ball rolling on this issue. I’m at a loss on internet searches. Which seems to be all I have time for these days.

  7. Post

    Hi Mathew,

    The Gift of Sight Program With Baptist Hospital

    They do some cataract surgery every year in Jacksonville for people who cannot afford it. It is not a large number but its large if it is your sight. It is in conjunction with Baptist Hospital.

    There is another Entity called Mission Cataract USA- They are on the Gulf Coast so a little farther away. You might be closer to an adjacent state facility. They are probably your best bet though you have qaulify and she might have to wait until their schedule opens.
    Center For Sight Sarasota
    2601 South Tamiami Trail Sarasota, FL 34239
    (941) 925-2020
    Which is through Mission Cataract USA- you can contact them at:

    The local Lions Club is always worth contacting- one listed is 405 White St, Daytona Beach, FL 32114
    386-258-3441 but I am sure there are more and usually one club will be much more active.

    You also might contact the Conklin Centers For The Blind

    (386) 258-3441
    405 White St
    Daytona Beach, FL 32114

    While they do’t provide cataract surgery they may have some good contact information.

    Kaiser in Sacramento California doe a few free cataract surgeries ( (916) 973-7159 – you might ask they may do a few in your area.

    You can also try 1-800-222-EYES (3937) Eyecareamerica- I believe they just do exams but you can always ask.

    Best Wishes

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