DEAR ABBY: The 1997 VISION USA program is about to get under way, and once again we hope you will help to spread the news that low-income workers with no health insurance can apply to this program for free eye care. We are among 8,000 optometrists who, for the last six years, have volunteered our services to provide more than 200,000 children and adults with needed eye care.
Last year, one of our VISION USA patients was an elementary school student who was legally blind due to a congenital vision problem. This child had gone without glasses for two years because there was no money to replace the pair that had broken. With help from us, the Indiana University School of Optometry and the Ronald McDonald Foundation, this child received an eye exam, a low vision evaluation, glasses, a lighted stand magnifier and a special pair of filter sunglasses.
Most of the approximately 200,000 people who have received care through VISION USA don't have such dramatic situations. However, the American Optometric Association, which sponsors the program, reports that nine out of 10 have eye health or vision problems that can interfere with their ability to work or go to school. Some have sight-threatening conditions such as glaucoma.
Abby, we appreciate your passing the word along to your readers. There are many people out there who need eye care and could benefit from VISION USA. -- DEBRA McCONNAHA, O.D., LILIEN VOGL, O.D., RICHARD SCHAMERLOH, O.D., INDIANAPOLIS
DEAR DRS. McCONNAHA, VOGL AND SCHAMERLOH: I'm pleased once again to alert my readers to your worthwile volunteer program.
To qualify for free eye care, persons must have a job or live in a household where there is one working member; have no health insurance of any kind; have an income below an established level based on household size; and have had no eye examination within the last two years. (Eligibility requirements may vary in some states.)
From Jan. 2-31, 1997, low-income working people and their families can be screened for eligibility for the 1997 VISION USA program by calling 1-800-766-4466. Phone lines will be open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (CST). Because phone lines are sometimes very busy, it may be easier to apply by mail. Application forms are available from VISION USA, 243 Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, Mo. 63141. (Completed forms must be postmarked by Jan. 25.)
The comprehensive eye exams will be given in optometrists' private offices in March, coinciding with the celebration of Save Your Vision Week, March 2-8.