Disability and Seniors organizations
for providing access
to vision saving therapy
Decision to Provide Medicare
Coverage of Therapy
Will Help Save Seniors' Eyesight
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2004 -- Leading
advocates applauded a federal decision that will help protect millions
of senior citizens from losing their eyesight. Today, the American
Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the American Council of
the Blind (ACB) and the Gray Panthers commended the Centers for Medicare
and Medicaid Services (CMS) for providing Medicare coverage of ocular
photodynamic therapy (OPT) with verteporfin for the treatment of occult
age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
AMD involves the destruction of a
person's central vision, and is the leading cause of blindness among
people over the age of 50. AMD can progress very quickly and cause such
dramatic vision loss that an affected person can become legally blind
within only a short time after initial diagnosis. That is why the
coverage decision is so important to so many.
Everyone agrees about the benefits of
this treatment -- from CMS' own experts, the Medicare Coverage Advisory
Committee, the American Academy of Ophthalmologists, the American
Society of Retina Specialists, Medicare beneficiaries and to national
advocacy organizations. We commend CMS for finally ensuring that all
Americans, not just those that can afford it, have access to this
Secretary Thompson said it best in
October 2001, when CMS' originally made a decision to provide coverage,
saying, "By expanding access to this important new treatment, we
are improving the quality of life for many Medicare beneficiaries."
This therapy will allow many seniors to significantly slow sight loss
and retain very usable vision, thus freeing limited federal and state
resources to provide the services that others defined as legally blind
need to learn the techniques and skills to compensate for their sight
loss. "Access to this therapy will allow many seniors to
substantially retard sight loss and retain very usable vision along with
their independence," said AAPD President and CEO Andrew J. Imparato.
"We applaud CMS' decision to
expand Medicare coverage of the only effective treatment for this
disease," said Melanie Brunson, Acting Executive Director of
American Council of the Blind. "This resolution will give all
Americans access to treatment, regardless of income."
Will Thomas of the Gray Panthers
states that, "Expanding coverage to help prevent AMD is the right
thing to do, not just for social and health policy, but for fiscal
policy reasons as well."
The American Council of the Blind,
founded in 1961, is the nation's leading membership organization of
blind and visually impaired people.
AAPD is the largest national nonprofit
cross-disability member organization in the United States, dedicated to
ensuring economic self- sufficiency and political empowerment for the
more than 56 million Americans with disabilities.
About The Gray Panthers
The Gray Panthers is a national
organization of intergenerational activists dedicated to social change