May 12, 2006

No Payment for Vision Aids under Medicare New Proposal

Need a video monitor that magnifies print? Need a screen reader? Need a hand-held magnifier?

You can forget about Medicare paying for any of it anymore if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have their way.

Under a proposed rule issued May 1, the "low vision aid exclusion" proposes that all devices, "irrespective of their size, form, or technological features that use one or more lens to aid vision or provide magnification of images for impaired vision" be excluded from Medicare coverage based on the statutory "eyeglass" exclusion.

The exclusion comes in a proposed regulatory change for a competitive bidding program for Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies (DMEPOS).

CMS is "essentially stating that Medicare will not cover any device, regardless of cost, that could assist individuals with low vision from hand- held magnifiers to video monitors," says Mark Richert, Director of Public Policy for the American Foundation for the Blind.

The Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid (ITEM) Coalition issued a statement condemning the proposed rule change. "Over the last several years we have witnessed the tightening of Medicare's mobility device benefit as illustrated by the program's increased commitment to the 'in the home' restriction and aversion to coverage of new mobility technology such as the iBOT Mobility System," says the ITEM Coalition's Peter W. Thomas. "Now it's is clear that this is not a pattern unique to the mobility device benefit, but an approach that threatens the health and independence of all people with disabilities who depend on any assistive technology." (Read ITEM press release.)

The proposed rule can be accessed in the 'Downloads' section at -- comments are due by June 30.

Posted on May 12, 2006