Legislation to Improve Vision Programs, Research and Rehabilitation Introduced
May 26, 2005
Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Rep. Gene Green introduced the Vision Preservation Act, legislation to expand current federal vision and vision rehabilitation programs and to increase federal research into eye diseases. A co-chair of the Congressional Vision Caucus, Rep. Green was joined by his fellow Vision Caucus leaders Rep. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. David Price and Rep. Pat Tiberi in introduction of the Vision Preservation Act.
In my state of Texas, more than 370,000 people suffer from diabetic retinopathy. At least 90,000 Texans over 50 live with AMD. And cataracts affect more than 1.2 million people in my state, Green said. Yet we know that nearly half of all vision diseases are preventable. This legislation will put the federal resources in place to conduct critical research on eye diseases and provide for vision rehabilitation under Medicare in an effort to prevent and treat the vision diseases that afflict too many Americans.
The Vision Preservation Act is a legislative response to the Vision Problems Action Plan, which was developed by Prevent Blindness America, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Optometric Association, Lighthouse International and the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research to address vision problems in the U.S. An estimated 80 million Americans have a potentially-blinding eye disease. The number of Americans who are blind or visually impaired is expected to double by 2030.
Specifically, the Vision Preservation Act would expand federal research on eye diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent and the National Eye Institute (NEI), within the National Institutes of Health. The legislation also would expand current federal vision education and awareness programs and create an age-related macular degeneration (AMD) public education program at the NEI to increase awareness of AMD and stress the importance of early detection in preventing vision loss. Additionally, the legislation directs the Department of Health and Human Services to develop voluntary guidelines to ensure quality vision screenings.
The Vision Preservation Act also provides for vision rehabilitation services under the Medicare program. The bill also authorizes a study on barriers faced by medically-underserved populations to vision services covered under Medicare, including vision rehabilitation.