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Raleigh, N.C. - The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced today that North Carolina is sharpening its focus on spending through the Medical Eye Care Program effective Sept. 1 to ensure that funds stretch as far as possible to provide needed treatments and surgeries to income-eligible people at risk of losing their vision.
"The gift of sight is our goal, and that is why we want to reach more people who need treatments and surgeries to prevent blindness or restore their vision," said Eddie Weaver, director of the Division of Services for the Blind. "We want to make sure this program is as responsive as possible to the needs of the people we serve."
The $2.3-million program - funded only with state monies - ran out of funds last March, three months before the end of the state fiscal year. Among services covered last fiscal year were eye exams and eyeglasses for people who were not at risk of vision loss. Now the funds will be used exclusively for screenings for children and people needing treatments and surgeries to prevent vision loss. Last year, the division sponsored 2,383 treatments and surgeries which prevented blindness and in many cases restored sight.
Weaver said staff at the division will ensure that the funds are applied to treatments and surgeries that include care for retinal detachments, glaucoma, acute infections/inflammations of the eye, certain cataract surgeries, diabetic retinopathy, and laser surgeries for retina tears and cystoid macula edema. Under the new guidelines, controls are tightened. Weaver said emergency treatments and surgeries will be reviewed prior to approval by the state consulting ophthalmologist while the nursing eye care consultants will authorize eye-related medications.
The procedures are reimbursed at the same rate as Medicaid to help the state maximize returns in the eye care marketplace.
People whose vision can be corrected with eyeglasses will be referred to Prevent Blindness North Carolina, a nonprofit that focuses on outreach and partners with optical and vision centers to provide vision screenings, care and eyeglasses to clients who are in need.
For more information about the Medical Eye Care Program contact your local social worker for the blind using the county listing at http://www.ncdhhs.gov/dsb/contacts/swbcontacts.htm