Blue Review
A newsletter for contracting institutional and professional providers

April 2021

Visual Impairment on the Rise: Why This Matters

In our annual Blue Review readership survey, some readers asked for more articles on specialty areas. In response, we’ve created a series of articles on vision impairment. Do you have suggestions for other topics? Email us!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 3.4 million Americans aged 40 years and older are blind or visually impaired and a total of 80 million Americans have potentially blinding eye diseases. The major causes of vision loss are cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.1 Prevent Blindness America projects these populations will grow substantially in the future; by 2032 it is estimated that the visually impaired population aged 40 and older will increase by 66% to nearly 5.1 million and the blind population will increase 59% to 2.2 million.2

People with vision loss are more likely to experience depression, diabetes, hearing impairment, stroke, falls, cognitive decline and premature death. Decreased ability to see often leads to the inability to drive, read, keep accounts and travel in unfamiliar places, thus substantially compromising quality of life. The economic cost of vision loss in the U.S., including direct costs and lost productivity, is estimated to exceed $35 billion.3

How You Can Help

  • If you’re an eye care specialist, share results with your patient’s primary care physician (PCP) to help coordinate care.
  • If you’re a PCP, remind your diabetic patients to get an annual eye exam as recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).4
  • Make sure Hadley is on your resource list.

Who’s Hadley?
Hadley, a 100-year-old learning destination for those facing vision loss, offers short workshops covering everyday activities like using a smart phone, marking medications or kitchen safety. Experts from the field of vision loss staff all workshops and readily address personalized questions, whether received online, on the phone or in the mail. As a privately funded nonprofit, Hadley provides workshops completely free of charge. For more information about Hadley, visit their website, call 800-323-4238 or email them.

Other Resources for Our Members
In addition to vision benefits that vary by plan, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL), offers members discounts on laser eye surgery, eye exams, contacts and frames through Blue365®. No referral is necessary and there’s no limit to the number of times members can receive discounts on purchases.

BCBSIL is also working with Esperanza Health Centers and five other clinics in the Chicago area to help improve screening rates for diabetic retinopathy. The clinics offer free diabetic retinopathy screenings to BCBSIL members and non-members.