In spite of federal and state health care initiatives, millions of Americans do not have access to affordable medical and surgical eye care. Appropriate health care should be accessible to everyone without regard to their ability to pay, a concept strongly endorsed by numerous medical societies, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and its membership. It is the policy of the Academy and the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology to encourage membership to participate in those initiatives that promote awareness of eye disease and offer access to affordable quality medical and surgical eye care. Through EyeCare America, the Foundation’s national public service program, Academy membership has an opportunity to participate in a major, nationally recognized referral system that provides access to care for the medically underserved. In addition, the Academy and the Foundation encourage ophthalmologists to develop local programs that provide care for indigent and medically underserved patients.
Approximately 44 million Americans lack adequate, basic health insurance, and even more lack insurance coverage for and access to routine eye care. Many of these individuals are not indigent; they either do not have access to care or are unable to bear the financial burden imposed by existing health care programs. Federal and state-supported medical care programs vary so widely in their coverage that in some states only the most destitute are eligible for benefits. Furthermore, as health care costs rise, routine medical care is becoming unaffordable for increasing numbers of individuals.
Evaluation of Policy
The Academy should continue to encourage its membership to participate actively in supporting efforts to improve local, state, and federal health care initiatives that increase patient access to and utilization of medical services that reduce the individual’s financial burden. The Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology should continue to encourage the Academy membership to participate as EyeCare America volunteers and/or to help promote the program locally.
EyeCare America is the largest public service program in American medicine, providing eye care to medically underserved seniors and those who are at increased risk for glaucoma. Volunteer ophthalmologists provide medical eye care to eligible seniors 65 and older at no out-of-pocket cost for the recipient and a glaucoma exam to those at increased risk for glaucoma and who meet the program’s other qualifications.
Rising health care costs are leaving an increasing percentage of the population without access to adequate, affordable medical care. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and its Foundation encourage ophthalmologists to participate in ophthalmology-specific and general medical care programs at the local, state, and national levels that enhance information, access, and the delivery of needed medical and surgical eye care.
Approved by: Board of Directors, June 1991
Revised and Approved by: Board of Trustees, September 1996
Revised and Approved by: Board of Trustees, February 2002
Revised and Approved by: Board of Trustees, April 2007
Revised and Approved by: Board of Trustees, March 2011
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