| Tue, Jan 08, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

Medicare Memo: The Eyes Have It

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

glaucoma awareness month medicareA well-known proverb declares that the eyes are the window to the soul. It turns out that they reveal a whole lot more than that.

Changes in the eye can signal a range of health problems, from high cholesterol to liver disease to diabetes. Some changes are visible, such as a yellowing of the white area around the iris (jaundice) that might indicate liver problems. Other changes are felt, such as itching that may be a sign of allergies. Still other changes are in vision itself, such as a blind spot or blurriness that can have many causes.

Some changes in the eye are undetectable except by looking inside. The eye is unique. It’s the only place in the body where doctors can see arteries, veins and nerves without using surgery. This requires a dilated eye exam.

Regular dilated eye exams can help detect many age-related eye diseases in the early stages. Examples include macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

Medicare Part B (medical insurance) covers a dilated eye exam to test for glaucoma once every 12 months for people at high risk. The exam must be done or supervised by a doctor who is legally allowed to do the test in your state.

You have a higher than normal risk of developing glaucoma if you:

  • Have diabetes

  • Have a family history of glaucoma

  • Are African American and age 50 or older

  • Are Hispanic American and age 65 or older

With Original Medicare, you pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for the test. You may need to pay more if you haven’t yet met your Part B deductible for the year. If you receive the test in a hospital outpatient setting, then you may pay a copayment to the hospital. Your costs with a Medicare Advantage plan will depend on the specific plan.

Keep Your Eyes Healthy

It’s important to have a complete eye exam every year or two after age 65 to check for age-related eye diseases and other eye conditions. Original Medicare doesn’t cover routine eye exams. However, many Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement insurance plans offer this coverage. Read your specific plan benefits to learn what may be covered and the costs.

People who may need assistance with eye care costs can contact EyeCare America, which provides free or low-cost eye exams to eligible seniors. EyeCare America is a program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear, call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

Resources

Medicare Part B Coverage: Learn about what’s covered and what’s not.

National Eye Institute: Learn about eye health, get resources and more from the National Institutes of Health

Medicare.gov: Visit the official U.S. government site for Medicare.

 

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