In 1965 Medicare was enacted by the US Congress providing health insurance to American seniors that covered most medical/health conditions, however, vision care, eyeglasses and contact lenses were omitted from the law. Now 78% of older voters demand Vision Care be included in Medicare. There is considerable interest by the Democratic congressional leadership to include Vision Care. The implications of inclusion of vision care, and prescribed eyeglasses and contact lenses in Medicare follow:
1) The demand for optometric services will increase significantly. Optometrists will not only provide more refractive services, but also more medical eye care services for an elderly population with a high incidence of eye conditions requiring medical management.
2) The Social Security Law will be opened for amendment to include Vision Services providing optometry the opportunity to include optometry in the Graduate Medical Education Program (GME) language. Once optometry’s clinical training model meets GME expectations, then optometric residency programs would be eligible to receive GME payments. ASCO and AOA should have a joint plan if the opportunity arises to include optometry in GME language.
3) Corporate optical retailers, anticipating a dramatic increase in demand for eyeglasses, and with difficulty in placing optometrists in certain retail locations, will likely lobby State/Federal Governments to authorize technicians, utilizing automated devices, to measure refractive error suitable for prescribing eyeglasses.