I am committed to making sure those with diabetes have easier access to care.–Rep. Tom Reed, facebook, July 31
Reportedly, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) have introduced The Diabetic Vision Loss and Blindness Prevention Act of 2018, which would allow people on Medicare to go to their family doctors for diabetic eye disease testing. The bill has been renamed as H.R.6639 – To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for coverage under the Medicare program of digital retinal imaging with remote interpretation. Rep. Sewell is a Democrat, so this bill is said to be bipartisan. Nether the text of the bill nor a CRS summary is yet available. This bill is said to be needed because currently Medicare will only reimburse specialists for diabetic eye care. An article in The Corning Leader explains:
There is no fair reason for diabetics on Medicare to wait to see a specialist for a simple test their family doctor has the ability to conduct.–Rep. Tom Reed
In my case, I needn’t wait–I make the next appointment at the end of the current one, six months or a year in advance.
Today’s bill is a commonsense fix that will give more constituents living with diabetes access to the eye screenings they need close to home. —Rep. Terri Sewell
If one lives where there are no Ophthalmologists, and a family doctor can do the exam, this would be good. I don’t think my family doctor has the time, experience, or equipment needed to do eye exams, even though she may be capable of it. Tom’s bill envisions the use of remote interpretation, presumably by a specialist. I have no idea what equipment and arrangements would be needed to make that work.
Tom has previously suggested use of remote interpretation. A patient would see a provider, not necessarily a doctor, who would consult with an expert via a video link if necessary. This could be a convenience for the patient, but also would be a shift away from a direct connection between patient and doctor to a model of cut-rate medical care. Is this what Tom means by “patient centered?”
The Diabetic Vision Loss and Blindness Prevention Act of 2018 reform the reimbursement requirements for Medicare and allow primary care doctor testing reimbursements.
If a primary care doctor did an eye exam during a routine visit Medicare wouldn’t pay for the visit? That does seem strange if true.
Dr. Robert Berke of Chautauqua Family Health Services has seen first-hand how diabetic retinal eye exams in the primary care setting improve access to critical, vision-saving tests.
Would one have to drive far in Chautauqua County to see an Ophthalmologist, or is this an attempt to entice patients who might need a specialist to accept lower cost care?