Eye and vision problems become more common as people age. Despite their need for prescription eyeglasses, not all retired seniors have insurance to cover eye care services or can afford to pay the cost out of pocket. Fortunately, there are programs available that offer assistance to eligible seniors who need eye exams and eye wear.
Although Medicare usually doesn't pay any part of the cost for routine eye exams or eyeglasses, if you are Medicare-eligible and at high risk for certain eye diseases, Medicare covers one exam a year. For example, if you are diabetic, Medicare will pay for an optometrist or ophthalmologist to perform a dilated eye exam to screen for diabetic retinopathy – damage to retinal blood vessels at the back of the eye. The condition often is a complication of diabetes, but if it is detected early, treatment can prevent vision loss.
If you are eligible for Medicare coverage and are at high risk for glaucoma because of diabetes or a family history of glaucoma, Medicare will cover an annual exam. But you must meet your Medicare Part B deductible before Medicare will pay its portion for the exam. You also are responsible for paying the remaining 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount if you do not have coinsurance to pick up the cost.
If you have cataract surgery to remove the natural lens of the eye and implant a man-made lens, Medicare Part B will pay toward the cost of a pair of eyeglasses following the surgery. The supplier you choose must be enrolled in Medicare, and you must pay for any eyeglass frame upgrades you want. The same as for an exam, you must pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount.
Depending on your income, you may qualify for the Medicaid program in your state. Medicaid programs often cover eye exams and eyeglasses for low-income individuals who meet the eligibility requirements for medical assistance. Individuals who are 65 and over who have Medicare, but who are financially unable to pay for Medicare supplemental insurance, often qualify for Medicaid as their coinsurance. If you qualify for assistance, the eye care professional with whom you schedule an eye exam and get your eyeglasses must participate in the Medicaid program.
For decades, the Lions clubs in local communities have provided assistance to visually-impaired individuals who need eyeglasses and other vision services. The Lions Club collects used prescription eyeglasses, reading glasses, and eyeglass frames to recycle and distribute to individuals who can't afford to pay for them. Lions clubs nationwide also help people get free glaucoma screenings and cornea transplants.
Hometown Day is an annual event – usually scheduled for a day in December – which is sponsored by the Lions Club and partner retailers such as LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, and Target Optical. The Lions Club screens low-income and uninsured individuals in need of eye care services to determine eligibility and distributes vouchers for free eye exams and free eyeglasses offered by participating eye care providers.
New Eyes for the Needy
New Eyes is a nonprofit, voluntary organization headquartered in New Jersey that purchases new eyeglasses for financially needy individuals, including senior citizens. The eyeglass assistance this nonprofit provides is available in all 50 states in the U.S. To qualify, you must meet the current federal poverty guidelines and not qualify for assistance from state or federal programs, or a charitable organization in your own community. Also, it must be no more than a year since you last had your eyes examined. While New Eyes does not pay for you to have your eyes examined by an eye care professional, the organization will help you find where you can get a free or low-cost eye exam in your area.Share