Restoring Vision Benefits for Those Who Need It

California Restores Eyeglass and Low Vision Aid Coverage in its Medicaid Program

By Matthew Alpert, OD July 10, 2017

Co-authored by Matthew Alpert, OD, and Sage Hider, OD, President of the California Optometric Association.

As most of you know, due to state budget concerns, coverage for eyeglasses and low vision aids for adults was cut in California’s Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal, in 2009. The California Legislature restored coverage for eyeglasses and low vision aids in its recently passed budget bills, giving Medi-Cal beneficiaries the ability to see clearly again. The restoration is expected to take effect in 2020, making it over a decade since many Medi-Cal beneficiaries could read, drive, or even work.

Getting these benefits restored was no easy feat. The California Optometric Association (COA) worked alongside VSP and with state legislators, to include the restoration of optical benefits in the state budget. Hundreds of doctors of optometry across the state aided this effort by calling and e-mailing their state legislators. 

Not only does the restoration of eyeglasses and low vision aids help individuals see, it also increases the likelihood for early detection and treatment of serious conditions. In a state where, according to recent UCLA research, more than 50 percent of adults have a diabetes-related illness, early detection and care provided during a comprehensive eye exam is critical1. We know patients are more likely to come in for a comprehensive eye exam if they have coverage for materials. Hence, the restoration is a boon for early intervention, saving our state and health care system money downstream. More importantly, it helps our patients save their vision and experience a better quality of life.

While these benefits will not go into effect until 2020, it’s important that we continue to educate patients about the importance of an eye exam and encourage utilization of their benefits, no matter the coverage level. VSP and COA will continue working together to support doctors as the restoration draws nearer. In the meantime, we would like to hear from doctors who have experience with Medi-Cal patients. How do you think this legislation will impact your patients? And your practice? 

1March 2016 – UCLA Center for Health Policy Research 

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