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Free eye exams and glasses: Overview
No one should go without routine eye care and vision correction. Public and private organizations may be able to help you get a free eye exam and glasses if you are in financial need. Social workers and community organizations also can help you find the care you need.
Free eye exams for infants
InfantSEE is a national public health program managed by the American Optometric Association (AOA). The program is funded through AOA’s charitable organization, Optometry Cares – The AOA Foundation.
InfantSEE provides a free eye exam for infants within the child’s first year of life, regardless of family income or insurance coverage.
The free exam is performed by an AOA member optometrist who donates their time in an effort to ensure that eye and vision care become a part of routine infant wellness care in the United States.
According to Optometry Cares - The AOA Foundation, InfantSEE is just the first step to ensuring healthy eyes and clear vision for children. Parents should also schedule routine eye exams for children when their kids reach age 3. Kids should have their eyes examined again before they begin school and every two years thereafter, unless otherwise directed by their eye doctor, AOA says.
The InfantSEE program was developed in partnership with The Vision Care Institute, a Johnson & Johnson company. To learn more about InfantSEE and to find a participating optometrist, visit the InfantSEE website.
Children’s eye exams covered by Medicaid
Medicaid is a federal-state U.S. public health program administered by the states.
In general, Medicaid coverage is available in every state for children in low-income families. Medicaid pays for a number of services for eligible children, including:
Screening and treatment of health conditions
Physician and hospital visits
Vision and dental care
Each state has its own eligibility rules and benefits. Contact the Medicaid office in your state for details.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a state and federal partnership. It provides low-cost health insurance for children.
States have considerable flexibility to establish income eligibility rules for CHIP. In most cases, eligible families cannot afford private health insurance but do not qualify for Medicaid.
Children enrolled in the program must be otherwise uninsured. Preventive care is free, but premiums and other cost-sharing may apply for other services.
In most states, children enrolled in the program are eligible for free eye exams. To find out if your children are eligible for CHIP or Medicaid coverage, visit the CHIP/Children’s Medicaid website.
Free eye exams for adults
EyeCare America is a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It provides free eye exams for qualifying seniors.
Eligible individuals receive a comprehensive medical eye exam and up to one year of free care for any disease diagnosed during the initial exam. Eye exams are provided by ophthalmologists who accept Medicare and/or other vision insurance reimbursement as payment in full. Patients without insurance receive care at no charge.
For more information about the program, visit the EyeCare America website.
Lions Clubs International provides financial assistance to individuals for eye care through its local clubs. You can find a local Lions Club by using the “club locator” feature on the organization’s website.
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Eye exams covered by Medicare
Medicare does not provide free eye exams or free eyeglasses for all enrollees. But Medicare-eligible people with special conditions do qualify for eye exam coverage.
People with diabetes can get a dilated eye exam to check for diabetic eye disease, including diabetic retinopathy. Your doctor decides how often you need this exam.
Medicare-eligible people who are at high risk for glaucoma also can have an annual eye exam covered by the program.
For more information, visit the Medicare website.
Eyes of Hope, a Vision Service Plan (VSP) program, offers gift certificates that provide adults and children in need with access to eye care and new glasses at no cost through a VSP network eye doctor in their community. Gift certificates are distributed through VSP’s national network of community partners.
For more information about this program, visit VSP Global’s Eyes of Hope webpage.
New Eyes is a non-profit organization that purchases new eyeglasses for poor children and adults in the United States. The organization also recycles donated glasses for distribution to people in need worldwide.
Founded in 1932, New Eyes has provided free eyeglasses to more than 8 million people in the U.S. and around the world. For more information, visit the New Eyes website.
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Page published on Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Page updated on Tuesday, December 13, 2022