We take our eyes for granted. 20/20 vision is not just optimal, but necessary in today’s society (think small cell phone screens). Healthy eyes are essential for healthy living. We use our eyes for everything except sleeping. Whether you are texting a friend or driving a car, your eyes are needed. The number one reason people do not have their vision checked is that they think they can not afford to. It is expensive to get your eye exam, your lens prescription and your eyeglasses. However, there are options for obtaining assistance getting eyeglasses and/or eye exams, even if you have low or no income. Federal and state funded programs are one way to obtain help. There are also charitable and non-profit organizations that assist you getting eye exams and eyeglasses for yourself and for your children. Options are available for adults and children. You can often apply for state and/or federal aid on-line. No need to wait all day on the phone. When was the last time you had an eye exam?
Medicaid is a state and federally funded program to supply health insurance coverage to low-income people and families. Medicaid provides health insurance coverage that includes vision and dental. The vision benefits cover exams, glasses and frames, along with lenses, fittings, repairs and replacements of glasses. Children may replace lost or broken glasses twice a year. Adults may replace their eyeglasses once per year. Bifocal and trifocal lenses are covered. Or, if needed, you can get two pairs of glasses, one for close vision and one for far vision. Special lenses, such as transition or photo-chromic lenses, are not covered. Contact lenses are usually not covered. The rules vary slightly in each state, so check with your local social services office, or take a look on-line at medicaid.gov for more information.
Children’s Health Insurance Coverage (CHIP)
CHIP is a federal and state funded program that offers healthcare to individuals under 19 years of age who do not have insurance. Every state has a CHIP program, although the rules and coverage of CHIP vary state to state. Even if you cannot qualify for Medicaid based on your income, you may qualify for CHIP. This health insurance program is available to children whose families meet certain income guidelines. Working families who do not meet Medicaid eligibility guidelines may meet CHIP’s. The CHIP requirements allow for higher income per family. Coverage varies from free full coverage for those with a lower income, to having some copay if their income is higher. CHIP covers eye exams, eyeglasses, and will even replace broken glasses.
If you cannot meet the income requirements for either Medicaid or CHIP, there are non-profit organizations that will help. The American Optometric Association (AOA) began Optometry Cares-The AOA Foundation in 2006. Their focus is to “expand eye care awareness, education and research and access to eye health and vision care to everyone in the United States in order to enhance human performance and quality of life.” Optometry Cares has helped 46 million people in the United States. One of the services offered by this organization is the InfantSEE program. InfantSEE completely covers comprehensive eye exams for infants aged 6 months to 12 months. It is important to have eye problems diagnosed early. This service is provided free of charge for everyone, regardless of their income or health insurance status. Just go to their website at infantsee.org. The website will help you find a provider in your area. Then you call the provider’s office and tell them you want to schedule your InfantSEE appointment. It is as easy as that.
There are many programs to help you get free or low cost eye exams and eyeglasses. Some programs work on a sliding-scale payment system, where lower-income families may have no copay while higher-income families will have a copay. Copays are affordable (usually $3 to $30). State and federal programs are available for low-income people and families. There are charitable institutions that will help. Being near-sighted or far-sighted will no longer be a problem. There is no open enrollment period for CHIP, Medicaid or the InfantSEE program. You can apply today. Your vision is tremendously important and worth taking care of.