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Thinking About Setting Up a Free Eyecare Plan for Schools in 2023?

This Virginia eye doc walked us through it.




Dr. Scott

ECPS ARE A giving lot. We’re repeatedly struck by how many are willing to take off their business hats and provide their life-changing skills and materials free to someone who lacks the means to pay for them. Usually this is done on an ad hoc, informal basis, and we get that; the thought of taking a more organized approach to charitable activities seems daunting. But one Virginia practice took the plunge, setting up a program to provide free eyewear and care to schoolkids. They found it was easier, cost less and took less time than they imagined, and shared with us what they’ve learned in the hope it will inspire others to follow suit.


Having provided eyecare for over 20 years, Invision (no relation to this magazine) owner Dr. Scott Mann and his team at the practice’s two locations in Christiansburg and Salem, VA, have seen many families who can’t afford exams or glasses for their kids but who may not qualify for programs like Medicaid. “We wanted to help those kids whose families fell through the cracks,” he says.



Invision’s “Kids Program” provides free eyecare and eyewear to K-12 kids in their local school systems. That includes six to eight elementary schools, plus an intermediate and high school for each location.

Mann began by contacting the head nurse at each target school and making his pitch: The plan is not promoted to the public and parents cannot refer kids. Only school staff can refer, and only through the nurse. There is no financial test. “We do not have the time or expertise to take this step. We explain to the nurse that we trust their judgment. We tell them ‘You see the shoes the kids wear,’ and they understand. We provide a form they can email or fax, or they can just call us.” Kids with vision insurance are not candidates.

The response was positive and the project easy to get up and running. Mann says it only took a couple of hours to administer the first year, and now requires less than an hour of his time annually. He and his team simply take care of each kid and enter their usual fees in the books in full. “This is the true value of what we provide to that individual. We then adjust the entire amount off in an adjustment named ‘Kids Program.’ When our budget goal is reached the program is paused for the year.” A small office might start with a yearly goal of $2,000 – $3,000, he advises, while a bigger office may shoot for $5,000 or more.

The cost is simply recorded as Cost of Goods Sold. Mann figures if you can provide one or two exams per month at no cost per the plan and use a predetermined frame selection you can provide great value with an actual cost of 20-30% of the value. “Of course, your chair time and staff time are included but that is the giving part of the plan.” Your COGS comes out of normal operations and is therefore deductible. There are no separate legal, tax or accounting issues, says Mann.

“It’s easy — I encourage docs to try it.”



Mann was pleasantly surprised by how much both his staff and school nurses embraced the program, and by how easy it was to set up. “The numbers of kids and dollar amount over the past 17 years have been rewarding to everyone involved.”

He adds: “Sometimes as professionals we can underestimate the value of our services. This plan does just the opposite and allows us to see how we can help. A great reward going forward would be for other docs around the country to adopt this plan to help kids in their communities. Kids need to see well to learn and we can help.”

Download copies of two simple forms Dr. Mann uses.

Do It Yourself: Set up a charitable eyecare program for schools.

  • OPTICIANS. Give them cost guidelines as to what is covered and ask them to source these items (e.g., cost-effective yet attractive frames; single vision, scratch-resistant lenses).
  • KEY PERSON. Designate a point of contact (POC) for your office to communicate with the school nurse.
  • NURSE. Have your POC contact the nurse. Set up a phone call or zoom call with you and your point of contact.
  • REVIEW. Go over your adjustments every three to six months and meet with your POC to see how the plan is going. Adjust goals, budget and communication as needed.
  • CONTACT Dr. Mann at for more guidance. “I’m willing to share the simple forms and my pledge to help people who truly want to help kids in their community.”



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