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.
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
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 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
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 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
Wyoming Council Of The Blind
Cc: Members, United States Senate