Eye :: Report on economic impact of vision problems shows need for greater investment

American Academy of Ophthalmology says report on economic impact of vision problems shows need for greater investment in prevention and research.

In response to a study showing America?s $51 billion annual cost for vision problems, the American Academy of Ophthalmology called for the public and private sectors to increase their investment in eye disease and disorder prevention, treatment and research.

The report, The Economic Impact of Vision Problems, issued today by Prevent Blindness America, details the high cost of age-related eye diseases on the United States economy. It is the first report to quantify the economic burden of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and refractive error.

?This report is a call to action for increased investment in early prevention, treatment and research,? said H. Dunbar Hoskins Jr., M.D., executive vice president for the Academy. ?When we attack the problem early, we can reduce vision loss, health care expenditures and the enormous caregiver burden.?

The study conservatively estimates costs of these four major eye diseases and refractive error at $51 billion annually, but they may be much greater. ?If anything, the economic cost of vision loss today is even higher than the report estimates, because of the additional expense of recently introduced treatments,? said Dr. Hoskins. ?New treatments for wet AMD alone total a billion dollars a year.?

The report confirms that the Academy?s estimate of $68 billion a year is well within the range of actual total costs.

The Economic Impact of Vision Problems uses public sources of data, showing the impact of vision problems on federal and state budgets, personal expenditures and health-related quality of life. The data were then analyzed by two different teams of health economists. The report is available at www.preventblindness.org.

This report adds urgency to the results of a study published in the February journal Ophthalmology, which showed that poor vision costs Medicare more than $2 billion per year in non-eye related maladies and healthcare needs. While the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) covers eye exams for diabetics, fewer than 45 percent of Medicare diabetics get an annual eye exam. This results in greater vision impairment among at risk Americans and underscores the need to increase awareness of the benefit of early prevention and treatment.

Michael X. Repka, secretary for federal affairs for the Academy added, ?We cannot ignore the role of research in this equation. Increased funding for the National Eye Institute (NEI), one of the federal government?s National Institutes of Health, has a huge return on investment.?

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