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Elder Eye Care Differs by Health Insurance

Managed care patients more likely to have problems left untreated

THURSDAY, May 12, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults at high risk of diabetes-related eye disease are more likely to have undiagnosed and untreated eye problems if they are enrolled in a managed care health plan than if they have fee-for-service (FFS) health insurance, according to a new report.

Reporting in the May Archives of Ophthalmology, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, interviewed 311 diabetes patients with managed care health insurance and another 107 with FFS health plans. The study participants were also given eye examinations.

Both groups of patients had high rates of untreated eye disease. Those in managed care had much higher rates of cataracts (36 percent versus 22 percent) and somewhat higher rates of diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, compared with those with FFS health insurance.

Overall, people in managed care were more likely to have at least one of three eye diseases -- cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma or suspected glaucoma -- than those with FFS health insurance, the researchers conclude.

"The majority of study participants had been seen by an eye care specialist in the prior 12 months, and this did not differ by type of insurance," the UCLA team noted. "This suggests that although access to eye care visits is similar in the FFS and MC (Medicare + Choice) settings studied, the content and quality of that care may differ."

More information

The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about diabetes-related eye problems.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, May 9, 2005
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