Medicare Benefits and Your Eyes

Medicare Benefits and Your Eyes

Eye Health is Important!

As you age, your risk for vision impairment and vision loss grows.

Because some vision-threatening conditions are not readily noticeable, it is

important that you preserve your vision by maintaining a healthy lifestyle

and having an eye exam through dilated pupil every 1-2 years or as

recommended by your eye doctor. Half of all blindness can be prevented

through early detection and treatment.

Medicare beneficiaries, especially those at risk for or diagnosed with a

variety of diseases, are entitled to a number of vision-related services.

It is especially important for people with diabetes, a family history of

glaucoma, or those who have suffered an eye disease or injury to be aware

of and utilize these benefits. Below are details about medical benefits that

may be available to you. See the “Need More Help” section for whom to

contact for additional assistance.

“Welcome to Medicare” Preventive Visit

The “Welcome to Medicare” visit is an excellent way for you to get upto-

date on important screenings and vaccinations, as well as to talk with

your health care provider about how to stay healthy. You can get this

introductory visit only within the first 12 months you have Medicare

Part B (medical). This visit is covered one time. Your doctor will:

Record and evaluate your medical and family history, current health

conditions, and prescriptions.

Check your blood pressure, vision, weight, and height to get a baseline for

your care. Keep in mind the vision check is a screening for vision loss risk

factors, not an eye exam through dilated pupil.

Make sure you’re up-to-date with preventive screenings and services, such

as cancer screenings and shots.

Order further tests, depending on your general health and medical history.

Following the visit, your doctor will give you a plan or checklist with

screenings and preventive services that you need. Ask about eye exams!

Medicare Benefits

and Your Eyes

Routine Eye Exams

Medicare does not generally cover the costs of routine eye exams,

with some exceptions. Medicare does help cover the exam if you have

diabetes, or are at risk for glaucoma. Keep in mind that Medicare does

not cover refractions for eyeglasses or contacts even as a part of some

otherwise covered exams. Check with your eye care professional for

more information. Medicare does not cover eyeglasses or contact lenses,

except immediately following cataract surgery. Medicare does cover an

eye exam for medical reasons, such as in the case of injury or disease.

Medicare Advantage plans, which are administered by private companies,

may choose to offer vision coverage and beneficiaries also have the

option to purchase supplemental coverage (Medigap) in addition to their

Medicare coverage that may cover routine eye care or help to cover the

cost of deductibles and other fees.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” because often there are

no warning signs, but there is treatment for glaucoma if detected early.

A leading cause of blindness, glaucoma affects close to 2.7 million

Americans age 40 and older.

Medicare provides annual coverage for glaucoma screenings if you are

considered to be at high risk for glaucoma. High risk is defined as:

»» Individuals with a family history of glaucoma – family defined as a

blood parent or sibling;

»» Individuals with diabetes – either diet-controlled, oral-agent

controlled, or insulin-dependent;

»» African Americans age 50; and

»» Hispanic individuals age 65 or older.

The exam for glaucoma includes:

»» Visual acuity;

»» Dilated eye examination;

»» Intraocular pressure measurement; and

»» Direct ophthalmoscopy.

Medicare will cover 80 percent of the doctor’s exam fee. You or your

secondary insurance must pick up the deductible and the remaining 20

percent balance. A minimum of 366 days is required between glaucoma

screening visits.

Medicare Benefits

and Your Eyes

Diabetes

If you have diabetes, you are at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy,

glaucoma, and cataracts. Diabetic eye disease can affect anyone with

diabetes. Often there are no symptoms, so it is important to see your eye

care professional for a comprehensive eye exam.

Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes qualify for the annual glaucoma

screening benefit. This benefit includes a comprehensive eye exam.

Because people with diabetes need to have an eye exam at least once

a year, Medicare beneficiaries should be sure to make full use of the

yearly glaucoma screening benefit to receive an eye exam that can check

for both glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. See “Medicare Benefits for

Glaucoma” on previous page for details.

Cataract Surgery

Cataract affects millions of Americans and are a leading cause of

blindness worldwide. In the U.S., cataract surgery is the most commonly

performed surgical procedure in those 65 and older.

Medicare beneficiaries have two choices for cataract surgery: receiving

basic lens replacement (IOL), paid in full by Medicare up to $2,000, or

applying the credit to new replacement lenses that can correct both near

and farsightedness (multifocal IOLs), in addition to cataract removal.

Patients are then responsible for paying the difference.

Medicare also covers corrective eyeglasses or contacts following

cataract surgery with an implanted intraocular lens. Medicare pays 80

percent of the Medicare-approved amount for one pair of eyeglasses or

contact lenses after each cataract surgery. The beneficiary also pays any

additional charges for upgraded frames and the Part B deductible.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD diminishes central vision that currently affects the vision of more

than 2 million Americans age 50 and older and is a leading cause of

blindness. AMD is a progressive disease that, if left untreated, can result

in severe vision loss and even blindness.

Medicare Part B covers treatment for beneficiaries with age-related

macular degeneration, including lucentis, Avastin, aflibercept, pegaptanib,

and ocular photodynamic therapy with verteporfin (Visudyne). The

beneficiary pays 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for the

drug and the doctor’s services or a co-payment if the treatment is offered

in a hospital outpatient setting.

Medicare Benefits

and Your Eyes

Prescription Drug Benefits

All Medicare beneficiaries, no matter how they get their health

care today or whether they have existing drug coverage, are

eligible for drug coverage under a Medicare prescription drug

plan (also known as a Part D plan). This includes eye medications.

There are penalties for people who miss enrollment deadlines

below:

»» October 15 – annual open enrollment period begins

»» December 7 – annual open enrollment period ends

»» January 10 – new choices take effect

Medicare prescription drug plans will vary depending on where

you live, and each plan is different. This can be confusing, but

there are resources which can help you to understand your

choices. Start with www.Medicare.gov and 1.800.MEDICARE.

Financial assistance is available for those who meet certain

income and resource limits. Contact Social Security at

1.800.772.1213 or visit www.socialsecurity.gov to learn more

about this program.

Need More Help?

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:

1.800.633.4227 or www.medicare.gov

Social Security

1.800.772.1213 or www.socialsecurity.gov

State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)

Each state has a SHIP program funded by Medicare which

provides objective information about Medicare related issues.

One-on-one counseling and assistance is available to people

with Medicare and their families. To find the SHIP program in

your state go to: www.shiptalk.org

Prevent Blindness America Vision Health Resource Center

1.800.331.2020 or www.preventblindness.org