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The Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid (ITEM) Coalition was formed to raise awareness and build support for policies that will enhance access to assistive devices, technologies, and related services for people with disabilities and chronic conditions. The coalition is broad-based including disability and aging organizations as well as health and provider associations. VSA recently joined the coalition to support its advocacy for Medicare coverage of low vision aids and devices. ITEM is developing strategies to convince the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to rescind its existing “low vision aid exclusion which is based on the exemption of coverage for eyeglasses.” Because of this restrictive interpretation of the “eyeglass exemption” in the Medicare statute, Medicare beneficiaries are often unable to access critical assistive technologies that have lenses such as high-power magnifiers and other visual aids. Yet, these tools are often essential for individuals with low vision to read prescriptions, financial documents, mail, recipes, and other important health-related materials. We’ll keep you posted on this important effort. Information about the ITEM Coalition.
 
VSA has also endorsed the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act, H.R.4129. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Maloney (D-NY) and Bilirakis (R-FL), would evaluate the feasibility and cost of providing Medicare coverage for low vision technologies. The project would last for five years and a prescription from an ophthalmologist or optometrist would be required.

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