Under a new bill, Medicare Part B would pay for a routine eye exam and for contact lenses or corrective lenses every two years.
Currently Medicare covers screenings for people at high risk of getting cataracts or glaucoma. But it does not cover routine eye exams or corrective lenses.
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) is a co-sponsor of the Medicare Vision Act of 2019 (HR 4665), along with Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), Tom O'Halleran (AZ-01), and Suzan DelBene (WA-01).
Slotkin said her goal is to strengthen Medicare and lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors. She said many seniors forego routine eye exams and updates of their corrective lenses.
Slotkin said preventative eye exams and corrective lenses are an essential part of health care.
"Especially in older Americans, the routine eye exam is where you discover a lot of problems," said Slotkin. "Things that may have real consequences to the patient."
Slotkin said poor vision can increase the risk of falling and of car accidents. And it can make it harder to live independently.
"Making sure that our seniors have as up-to-date vision care as possible is something that helps not only their long term health, brings down costs when they don't have to go to the emergency room for that accident that happened," Slotkin said. "But also makes the rest of us safer when we're driving next to these folks."
Slotkin said the Congressional Budget Office has not yet produced a formal cost estimate of the bill. But she said she expects some of the costs will be offset by catching vision problems earlier and avoiding or reducing the costs associated with them.