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5 Ways to Get Vision Coverage When You Retire

About 1.3 billion people in the world live with some form of vision impairment. Over 91% of people age 55+ use some form of vision correction, so having access to quality vision care is critical with age. Issues with vision can increase the risk of falls, driving incidents and impact quality of life.

Medicare plans cover a wide variety of services including doctor visits, home health care, and a range of preventive screenings and treatments, but when it comes to vision coverage, beneficiaries’ options are extremely limited.

There are three vision options available to retirees:

1. Original Medicare (Part A and Part B)

Vision coverage through Original Medicare is limited to mostly preventive and emergency services, but it doesn’t typically cover routine eye exams for eyeglasses or contact lenses. Medicare Part A covers medical emergencies related to your vision if admitted to the hospital and Medicare Part B covers preventive treatments and screening related to diseases affecting vision.

Medicare Part B covers annual glaucoma tests for at-risk individuals which include those with diabetes, African-Americans aged 50+, Hispanics aged 65+ and/or those with a family history of glaucoma. Annual exams to test for diabetic retinopathy among diabetics, diagnostic tests and screenings for macular degeneration, cataract surgery and one pair of post-surgery eyeglasses or contact lenses are also covered. Medicare will only pay for contact lenses or eyeglasses from a supplier enrolled in Medicare. For each of these services, the out-of-pocket costs is the 20% Medicare-approved amount, and Part B deductible.

2. Medicare Advantage (Part C)

One of the easiest options for vision coverage is Medicare Part C. Part C includes the same emergency and preventive benefits included with Original Medicare, but some Part C plans may also offer additional benefits that include a yearly eye exam, eyeglass frames and lenses or contact lenses. The cost and coverage for these services vary per plan. The best way to determine the Medicare Advantage plan that covers the services needed is to compare plans online or speak with a licensed benefits advisor.

There are national and local programs available that provide vision care for little to no cost, but there may be additional requirements to participate and resources may be limited.

3. EyeCare America®

A service from the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that provides free eye exams and up to one year of care for low-income individuals who qualify.

4. Local Lions’ Club

Chapters often have programs to assist those with severe vision impairment, local chapters can provide more information.

5. Vision Coverage

When researching Medicare options, consider enhanced services such as having yearly eye exams (with updated prescriptions) and dental cleanings. Although these may not be the primary factors for choosing a specific Medicare plan, they should be considerations.

To review plans that may cover a variety of needs, take the Medicare Questionnaire, which compares plans online and connects you to free professional advice from licensed benefits advisors. You can also contact your local State Health Assistance Insurance Program (SHIP) for access to federally-funded Medicare counseling from trained staff members.

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Age Well Planner is an educational website created by nonprofit the National Council on Aging (NCOA). We provide information, resources, and referrals on topics such as: Benefits, Income, and Medicare.

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