Senior Eye Care Programs
I've been wearing glasses for more than 40 years now, but recently my eyes have taken a turn for the worse. Can you recommend any organizations that provide low-cost eye care for seniors on a tight budget?
There are several eye care programs and resources that may be able to help you, depending on your circumstances. Here are some to check into.
The best way to learn about free or discounted eye care or eyeglass programs in your community is to contact your local Lions Club. Lions Clubs are recognized for their service to the blind and visually impaired and should be able to refer you to programs available in your area. Programs and eligibility requirements will vary by community. Call your local Lions Club chapter, call Lions Clubs International at 800-747- 4448 or visit www.lionsclubs.org to find out what's available in your neck of the woods.
Another good local resource is the
"Give the Gift of Sight" program (www.givethegiftofsight.org) that provides free vision screening and new glasses to people who can't afford them. Sponsored by Luxottica Retail, LensCrafters and Lions Clubs International, Gift of Sight also offers an outreach program where trained volunteers visit nursing homes, hospitals and senior centers to adjust eyewear and provide free vision screenings.
EyeCare America's Senior EyeCare program is a national program coordinated by the American Academy of Ophthalmology that provides free medical eye care to all U.S. citizens age 65 and older who have not seen an ophthalmologist in three or more years and don't belong to an HMO or the VA. They also offer diabetes, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) eye care programs too. Eligibility requirements vary for each program. EyeCare America has over 7,300 participating ophthalmologists around the country that accept Medicare or other insurance as full payment. Patients without insurance receive care at no cost. For more information or to find if you qualify, call 800-222-3937 or visit www.eyecareamerica.org. Some other programs that can help include:
+ Knights Templar Eye Foundation: This is a charitable foundation that provides financial assistance for medical eye care, for those under ages 65 who don't qualify for Medicaid or have private insurance and can't afford to pay for care. For information call 847-490-3838 or visit www.knightstemplar. org/ktef. (Note: The Knights Templar Eye Foundation is also a cosponsor of EyeCare America's Senior EyeCare Program.)
+ Mission Cataract USA: Coordinated by the Volunteer Eye Surgeons' Association, they provide free cataract surgery to people of all ages who don't have Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance and have no other means to pay. Surgeries are typically done in May. For more information, visit www.missioncataractusa.org or call 800-343-7265.
+ Vision USA: Coordinated by the American Optometric Association (AOA), Vision USA provides free eye health and vision care services to uninsured and low-income workers and their families who have no other means of obtaining care. Visit www.aoa.org and click on "AOA Public Programs" or call 800-766-4466.
+ New Eyes for the Needy: This is an international eyeglass program that accepts donations of used prescription eyeglasses and distributes them to people with limited incomes. To learn more, visit www.neweyesfortheneedy.org or call 973-376-4903
Savvy Note: Medicare covers 80 percent of the allowed charges for cataract surgery and one pair of eyeglasses after surgery. Medicare also pays for annual glaucoma screenings for people at high risk of the disease and will pay for agerelated macular degeneration treatment for some patients. Call your Medicare provider to find out exact coverage details.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the "NBC Today Show" and author of The Savvy Senior books.