As a result of the advocacy of over 150 members of Children’s Vision Massachusetts (CVMA) members, the 2017 Massachusetts Legislature enacted into law a Special Commission on Childhood Vision and Eye Health to study and report on childhood vision and eye health in the Commonwealth. The 12 member Commission, including five members from the Children’s Vision Massachusetts Coalition, met throughout 2018 and 2019 to track the progress made on children’s eye health since passage of the 2004 Act Relative to Eye Examinations for Children. The Commission found that, despite the 2004 legislation, children continue to suffer from preventable vision disorders that negatively impact their development and learning, and that:
- Many children begin their first years of school without the required vision screening or comprehensive eye exam
- Untreated vision disorders have lasting impacts on children’s lives, affecting their ability to learn and be healthy, and often causing irreversible damage, and
- These effects are felt most acutely by low-income children of color and children with disabilities.
The Commission’s report, approved by the Massachusetts Departments of Public Health, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Early Education and Care, has been released. A summary of the recommendations include:
- Establish a universal, statewide data system for vision screening, comprehensive eye exam, diagnoses, and follow up care of children.
- Coordinate vision health services for children, beginning at birth.
- Examine requiring comprehensive eye exams at entry to programs that serve children with disabilities and as a required component of the state’s special education evaluation process.
- Review ways insurers, including MassHealth, can address inequities in access to pediatric ophthalmologists and optometrists.
- Address inequities in coverage for eyeglasses by encouraging payers to ensure eyeglasses for children are covered and accessible without burdensome co-pays, deductibles, or delays.
- Explore the feasibility of insurers instituting incentives for pediatric practices to provide evidence-based vision screening, assessment, and follow up to all children on a schedule as delineated in professional guidelines and Medicaid benefits.
This report is the first ever to describe the current status of children’s vision health across the state and provides robust guidelines and recommendations designed to establish a comprehensive, universal, statewide, Children’s Vision Health Program for the Commonwealth.
The full report, SD 2893, has been filed with the Massachusetts Legislature.