Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) have re-introduced H.R. 3749, the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act. This bill, now called H.R. 729, is intended to provide data that would assist the new Congress in making changes to the current Medicare program, which does not pay for magnifiers needed by low vision patients. The number of individuals who will participate and receive low vision devices will be determined later. The legislation makes $12.5 million available for the project over five years, and a referral by an ophthalmologist or optometrist would be required.
Specifically, under H.R.729:
· Individuals would be eligible to participate in the demonstration project only after completing a low-vision exam performed by a physician who would then deem a low-vision device as medically necessary.
· It would allow reimbursement for certain low-vision devices that are the most function-rich, most powerful, and most expensive.
· The legislation would evaluate, through a five-year national demonstration project administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, the fiscal impact of a permanent change to the Social Security Act.
The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is credited with initiating this action and acquiring its congressional sponsors. Advocates are encouraged to contact their members of the U.S. House of Representatives and urge them to co-sponsor H.R. 729.