Congress Moves Children’s Vision Bill Forward

Legislation an Important Step Toward Addressing the Uninsured

For the first time, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation supported by the American Academy of Ophthalmology to combat undiagnosed and untreated vision problems in children.

In a move that brings the measure one step closer to law, the Vision Care for Kids Act of 2007 (H.R. 507) was passed recently out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Act is part of the Academy’s long-term commitment to see that all children, including those with no insurance, receive an eye screening. The House is expected to vote on the measure before the end of the year.

“The Academy is pleased that this legislation passed unanimously and with bipartisan support. Clearly, Democrats and Republicans agree on the importance of children’s vision issues,” said Michael X. Repka, M.D., the Academy’s secretary for federal affairs and professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics at John Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We look forward to seeing the bill continue to advance and become law.”

Introduced by Reps. Gene Green, D-Texas, Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and John Sullivan, R-Okla., the bill would bridge a significant gap in vision care. While many states have vision screening programs in place, financial resources are often lacking for uninsured children to have follow-up diagnosis and treatment. This bill would complement existing state efforts by providing funding in the form of state grants for comprehensive eye examinations and treatment for uninsured children who fail a vision screening, authorizing $65 million dollars over five years. The Academy was instrumental in developing language used for the legislation.

“Because there is not a vision mandate under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), this legislation is important to support and encourage current state efforts to address the needs of our nation’s uninsured children,” said Catherine G. Cohen, the Academy vice president for governmental affairs.

The Academy has joined the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, the Vision Council of America, Prevent Blindness America and the American Optometric Association in making treating children’s vision a top priority for Congress this year.

SOURCE: American Academy of Ophthalmology

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