Some health conditions such as diabetes can cause slow, persistent damage to eyesight, so regular eye checkups are important. Older people might begin to suffer from conditions such as macular degeneration and cataracts. If the cost of an eye exam is too much for your budget, you do have options for free eye checkups.
Your infant should ideally receive an eye exam before he reaches his first birthday. InfantSEE, a public health program administered by the American Optometric Association, offers a one-time-only free exam for your infant between the ages of 6 and 12 months. This program is funded by the AOA’s philanthropic arm, called Optometry Cares. AOA members donate their time free of charge to ensure that the infants they examine have normal, healthy vision. As they grow, children should see an optometrist by the age of 3, before beginning school, then on a bi-annual schedule.
Families who qualify for Medicaid can take their children for annual eye exams. Vision care might also include eyeglass prescriptions. Medicaid coverage is available if you live below the federal poverty level. As of 2012, this level was $18,530 for a family of three in the 40 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. The poverty level in Hawaii was $21,320 and, in Alaska, it was $23,160.
If you earn too much for Medicaid but cannot afford private health insurance, you might qualify for CHIP, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CHIP provides preventive care at no cost, but you may be required to participate in cost-sharing. Your children may be eligible for free eye exams.
Free Eye Exams for Adults
The American Academy of Opthalmology provides free eye exams from qualifying eye doctors, depending on your eligibility. The program, called Eyecare America, works to raise awareness of several eye diseases and preserve healthy eyesight. If you are a low-income, uninsured worker, you and your family may qualify for the Vision USA program. This program provides free eye exams for you and your family members.
Free and Reduced-Fee Clinics
The Health Resources and Services Administration website can help you find a free or reduced-fee eye clinic, enabling you and your family to receive free eye exams. These federally funded health care centers provide health care and eye exams regardless of your insurance status.
Free Eye Exams for Senior Citizens
The EyeCare America program provides free eye exams for senior citizens who qualify. If you are an older American or legal resident, you may qualify to receive a comprehensive medical eye exam and up to 12 months of care for any disease your ophthalmologist diagnoses. You pay no out-of-pocket fees. You may not belong to an HMO or have vision coverage through the Veterans Administration.
Tips & Warnings
- Medicare will pay for some or all of an eye exam if you qualify. Information can be found at http://www.medicare.gov.
- States have medical health insurance programs for children of families that qualify. See the Resource section for an overview.
- If you do not qualify for any of these programs, big box stores like Walmart and Target run reasonably priced optometry centers. Just be sure to buy your glasses on the Internet for much cheaper than these stores provide (see resources section).
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
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