“It’s convoluted – vision care is so much more complicated than it used to be. Our current insurance system just isn’t working the way it needs to. I spend a huge amount of time each week doing paperwork, when I should be tending to my patients.”
That’s how one Missouri optometrist summed up the “state of the state” when it comes to vision care. He worked hard, completed his Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the state’s only accredited optometry program. Over the past 20 years he has built a successful practice with offices in two small neighboring towns. Most of his patients are low income – many receive Medicaid benefits. He noticed a real change back in 2008 when the Chrysler plant in Fenton shut down.
“So many good paying jobs were lost. Families were devastated. They lost their income, their health insurance, and their way of life. And I don’t think the area’s ever been the same.”
Today, those who are able to attain vision coverage through their job are fortunate. However, healthcare coverage options are generally limited for individuals living in the Show-Me State. Most rural counties in Missouri have access to only one insurance company: Anthem, which operates mostly on the eastern part of the state or Ambetter, which serves mostly western Missouri.
In most instances, vision care is not covered under standard policies – those benefits are provided for an additional cost. For those living on fixed incomes or who are earning only minimum wage, paying extra for vision care benefits just isn’t possible. Many Missourians need their paychecks to buy medicine, gas, and food. In other words, they have to treat eye care as a luxury. As a result, a child might struggle in school because he can’t see the words on a page; a mother may not be able to renew her driver’s license because she’s unable to pass the vision test. A machine operator working in a factory could work an eight-hour shift and produce worthless materials because he mis-read his micrometer. A diabetic patient could go blind. This simply isn’t acceptable.
We must find a way to ensure that all Missourians–regardless of income–are able to receive low cost, quality vision care. Optometrists, local and state agencies, and insurance providers need to collaborate to find workable, sustainable solutions. This problem is solvable. They just need to work together to get the job done.
One Missouri is committed to research, education, advocacy, and policy development on behalf of all Missourians.
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