They sent a letter last week.

Prevent Blindness and 100 other eye health organizations to the U.S. Senate requesting that any new healthcare bill require coverage of basic eyecare services for children.

The letter was sent to the Sente ahead of its work in drafting companion legislation to the House-passed American Healthcare Act. The coalition wants the Senate keep Obamacare's definition of “essential health benefits,” which includes coverage for children’s vision services (including eye examinations and glasses) and preventive health services.

Prevent Blindness explained that the American Healthcare Act, as written, would allow states to determine what essential health benefits should be offered on their insurance markets  — or to apply for waivers to opt out of providing basic preventive medical services.

Prevent Blindness wrote in the letter that the AHCA "jeopardizes early detection and cost-effective treatments that could prevent lifelong vision impairment and result in permanent loss of vision."

Below is the full letter, which was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and cc'ed to the entire Senate.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

As the United States Senate begins the process of drafting legislation to accompany H.R. 1628, the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), the organizations signed below are asking for your support in preserving coverage for a comprehensive eye examination for children as well as preventive health services, including vision screenings, as defined under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s essential health benefits (EHB). Vision impairments and eye disorders are the 3rd leading chronic condition among children with costs for direct medical care, vision aids and devices, and caregivers amounting to $10 billion per year. Our nation’s families are shouldering 45% of these costs. Common childhood eye disorders and vision impairments are easily treatable if caught early; however, as written, the AHCA jeopardizes early detection and cost-effective treatments that could prevent lifelong vision impairment and result in permanent loss of vision.

Eyesight and vision are intrinsically linked to early childhood development processes, including cognitive and motor function, socialization, and psychological development. In addition, optical correction of significant refractive error can result in improved school readiness and avoid deficits in literacy for pre-school aged children as they enter grade school. Because young children and their parents may not be aware of reduced visual function, vision screenings and eye examinations as provided under current EHB requirements are vital for detecting problems before development and learning ability are compromised.

We are furthermore concerned that an insurmountable burden would be placed on state public health infrastructure in the absence of national policies that support and prioritize preventive measures. In September 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a report (“Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow”) that recognizes that for too long vision and eye health have not received the attention and investment they warrant, given their importance to public health. Without the existing mechanisms in the EHBs in place to ensure that children can receive critical vision screenings and access eye examinations regardless of social or economic status, this significant public health oversight will continue to impact our nation’s children.

We urge the Senate to preserve the children’s vision coverage as currently defined under the ACA’s EHB. Prevention is a critical element in a strong public health infrastructure, and we ask that the Senate work to preserve the ability for children to receive eye and vision health services that establish a foundation for healthy development, school readiness, and lifelong vision health.

Sincerely,

American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus

Alabama Lions Sight Conservation Association

Alabama Vision Coalition

Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center

American Academy of Optometry

American Council of the Blind

American Council of the Blind of Nebraska

American Council of the Blind of New York

American Foundation for the Blind

Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired

Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired

Blair/Clearfield Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services

Bright Focus Foundation

Bucks County Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Byers Eye Institute at Stanford University

Cahaba Valley Health Care

Capital Area Guide Dog Users Inc

Center for the Visually Impaired

Center for Vision Loss

Central Ohio Lions Eye Bank

Central Susquehanna Sight Services, Inc.

Combat Blindness International

Community Services for Sight

Council of Citizens with Low Vision International

DeLand Lions Club

Department f Ophthalmology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital at Montefiore

Eye Bank Association of America

EyeSight Foundation of Alabama

Fayette County Association for the Blind

Florida Lions Conklin Centers for the Blind

George Washington Department of Ophthalmology

Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation Inc.

Guide Dog Users of New York, Inc.

Guide Dog Users of Washington State

Guide Dog Users, Inc.

Guide Dogs of Hawaii

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Healthy Eyes Alliance

Helen Keller International

Houston Health Department

Howard University Department of Ophthalmology

International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness

Illinois Society for the Prevention of Blindness

International Eye Foundation

International Retinal Research Foundation

Lackawanna Blind Association

Lavelle Fund for the Blind

Lighthouse Guild

Lions Clubs International

Macular Degeneration Partnership

Medical Outreach Ministries

Missouri Council of the Blind

National Keratoconus Foundation

New England College of Optometry

NYU Langone Eye Center, NYU School of Medicine

Ohio Public Health Association

Optometry Giving Sight

Ormond by the Sea Lions Club

PASS Coalition (Pedestrians for Accessible and Safe Streets)

Pediatric Ophthalmology of Montefiore Hospital Medical Center

Pennsylvania Association for the Blind

Pennsylvania Council of the Blind

Perkins School for the Blind

Pine tree GUIED dog users

Port Orange Lions Club

Prevent Blindness

Prevent Blindness Georgia

Prevent Blindness Iowa

Prevent Blindness North Carolina

Prevent Blindness Northeast Region

Prevent Blindness Northern California

Prevent Blindness Wisconsin

Prevent Blindness, Ohio Affiliate

Prevent Blindness Texas

Reader's Digest Partners for Sight Foundation

SEE International

Seva Foundation

Slatington Elementary School

State University of New York College of Optometry

Steepness Eye Research Institute/Massachusetts Eye & Ear

That Man May See

The Children's Center, Volunteers of America

The Gibney Family Foundation

The Sight Center of Northwest Pennsylvania

United Way of Erie County

University Hospitals

University of Pikeville, Kentucky College of Optometry

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

University of Wisconsin-Madison

UPMC Eye Center - Department of Ophthalmology

Venango County Association for the Blind

VIPS (Visually Impaired Persons Support)

Vision Forward Association

Vision Impact Institute

Vision Resources of Central Pennsylvania

VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired

VisionServe Alliance

Wyoming Council Of The Blind

Cc: Members, United States Senate

 
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