2012 Federal Budget
With a rising deficit and growing sentiment in Washington DC for the need to slash expenses, there is great concern that funding for programs for people with a visual impairment could be cut. President Obama released his 2012 budget, which calls for a continuation of current funding levels for many programs impacting people with a visual impairment.
2012 Budget Highlights:
- $3.1 billion for Vocational Rehabilitation, which is a $54 million increase
- $489 million for Early Intervention Services
- $374 million for public education available to children with disabilities ages three through five
- $719.06 million for National Eye Institute
- Includes a two-year delay in a Medicare reimbursement reduction for physicians
While not ideal, holding the current funding level may the best outcome for the visually impaired. As the debate heats up over the next few months, please let your member of congress know about your priorities. Find your legislator.
Vision Rehabilitation and Low Vision Services
Lighthouse International has been working towards Medicare reimbursement for low vision and vision rehabilitation services for many years. Vision rehabilitation is conducted by nationally certified professionals -- certified vision rehabilitation therapists, certified low vision therapists, certified orientation and mobility specialists and occupational therapists -- who instruct people with visual impairments on the best ways to utilize their remaining sight and senses.
The end of the Medicare Low Vision Demonstration Project (LRVD), which provided reimbursement for vision rehabilitation professionals in six sites throughout the country, ended on March 31, 2011. Lighthouse International will be working to identify ways to increase reimbursement for these services so we can ensure adequate access to vision rehabilitation across the United States.
Why is Vision Rehabilitation Important?
A small amount of intervention for someone losing vision to macular degeneration, glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy can make a big difference. Increasing the independence and safety of people with visual impairments improves quality of life, while preventing other injuries that can result from the loss of vision. Visually impaired patients have four times a greater risk of having a hip fracture than the same-aged sighted patients. Preventing such falls or limiting health risks will increase the patient’s long term quality of life while significantly reducing long-term health care costs.
On October 8, 2010, President Obama signed into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. The legislation requires internet and television programming to include audible and visual notifications so they are accessible to anyone with vision loss. Accessibility for people with a visual impairment is now at the forefront of public policy thanks to the passage of this bill. Even though important steps have been taken, there is still more that can be done in order to increase accessibility. Lighthouse International will be advocating on even more accessibility issues in the future. Please contact your representative today and let your opinion on accessibility be heard! Find your legislator.