Senator Nielsen Proposes to Restore Critically Needed Eyeglasses for Working Poor

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) proposes to restore coverage of one pair of eyeglasses provided every two years to adults who failed the DMV’s vision requirements for driving.

“Working Californians who have impaired vision are not able to fulfill their job duties effectively or safely,” said Senator Nielsen. “By restoring funding for Medi-Cal’s eyeglasses program, low income Californians will be able to drive safely to work or school.”

“Regular eye exams can detect a number of diseases such as glaucoma, diabetes and hypertension which can reduce the cost to our overall health system if detected early,” said Dr. Karrin Vallin, a Sacramento-area optometrist who brought the idea to Senator Nielsen.

Specifically, Senate Bill 1361 provides Medi-Cal coverage of one pair of prescription eyeglasses provided every two years for a Medi-Cal eligible individual who is 21 years of age or older and who is unable to meet the driver’s license vision standards established by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The measure will be heard before the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday, April 13.

Due to California’s budget cuts in response to the 'Great Recession,' several of Medi-Cal’s benefits, including optometry dispensing services for adult Medi-Cal beneficiaries were excluded from Medi-Cal coverage as of July 1, 2009.

In 2010, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) reinstated some optometry services for adults but not the eyeglasses program. Eyeglasses are currently available for individuals younger than 21.

“Too many Californians struggle to find work to put food on the table. Often times, buying something for themselves – even something as critical as a pair of eyeglasses – is a lower priority among the many needs of their families,” said Senator Nielsen.