Regional News

New legislation gives Washington State Medicaid clients access to low-cost eyeglass lenses, frames, contacts

Jun 02, 2011

Legislation passed during this year's regular legislative session will help state Medicaid clients affected by a budget cut that eliminated coverage of frames, lenses and contacts from the medical assistance program this year.

Under the new law, Airway Heights' Correctional Industries Optical center, which has been the manufacturer of vision hardware for the Medicaid program - will continue to make the items that are prescribed by Medicaid providers. The Spokane center now will charge the doctors for the actual cost of producing the glasses, and the doctors will be able to pass that same charge along to the clients.

The legislation presumes neither eye doctors nor the center will make a profit on the transactions. Prices are expected to range around $20 for a pair of glasses.

The bill, SSB5352, was originally sponsored by Senators Jim Honeyford, R-15, Debbie Regala, D-27, and Dan Swecker, R-20. It passed both chambers unanimously and was signed by Governor Gregoire on April 18.

The vision benefit budget cut was one of several cuts affecting benefits for clients of the Medicaid program ages 21 and older. Others included elimination of coverage for hearing aids and other hearing hardware, and limiting the adult dental benefit to emergency treatments for pain, infection or trauma. Persons with developmental disabilities were exempted from the original cut in the dental benefit, and the final legislative budget directed Medicaid to also restore the benefit for pregnant women later this summer.

None of the cuts affected children's benefits, which are generally protected under federal Medicaid law. The cuts also did not change coverage of eye or hearing exams for adults. Those remain covered by Medicaid.

Medicaid clients who are interested in obtaining new eyeglasses should talk to their optometrist, ophthalmologist or primary care provider for a referral to an eye doctor.

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