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Insurance Status Affects Access to Eye Care

Approximately two-thirds of uninsured Americans with severe eye problems do not seek annual treatment

TUESDAY, Mar. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Uninsured Americans are far less likely than their insured counterparts to seek the services of an eye care professional, researchers report in the March issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

David J. Lee, Ph.D., of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and colleagues conducted a study of nearly 290,000 American adults from 1997 through 2005, reporting contact with an eye care professional within the previous 12 months and their level of visual impairment, from severe to none.

Participants with severe visual impairment were the highest users of eye care, with 58.3 percent having had a consultation within the past year, compared with 49.6 percent for those with some impairment and 33.7 percent for those with none, the investigators found. However, respondents with no medical insurance had far lower utilization, at 35.9 percent, 23.8 percent and 14.3 percent, for severe, moderate and no visual impairment, respectively, the researchers note.

"Focus group data suggest that adults may view ocular health as distinct from, and perhaps less important than, their overall health because preventive ocular health care services are often not covered by health insurance," the authors write. "Meaningful progress toward the correction of this misperception may not be possible until all health insurance plans provide adequate coverage for ocular health care."

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