January 29, 2004.
Press Release. Source: American Council of the Blind; American Association of People with Disabilities; Gray Panthers.
Leading advocates applauded a federal decision that will help protect millions of senior citizens from losing their eyesight. Today, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the Gray Panthers commended the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for providing Medicare coverage of ocular photodynamic therapy (OPT) with verteporfin for the treatment of occult age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
AMD involves the destruction of a person's central vision, and is the leading cause of blindness among people over the age of 50. AMD can progress very quickly and cause such dramatic vision loss that an affected person can become legally blind within only a short time after initial diagnosis. That is why the coverage decision is so important to so many.
Everyone agrees about the benefits of this treatment -- from CMS' own experts, the Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee, the American Academy of Ophthalmologists, the American Society of Retina Specialists, Medicare beneficiaries and to national advocacy organizations. We commend CMS for finally ensuring that all Americans, not just those that can afford it, have access to this vision-saving therapy.
Secretary Thompson said it best in October 2001, when CMS' originally made a decision to provide coverage, saying, "By expanding access to this important new treatment, we are improving the quality of life for many Medicare beneficiaries." This therapy will allow many seniors to significantly slow sight loss and retain very usable vision, thus freeing limited federal and state resources to provide the services that others defined as legally blind need to learn the techniques and skills to compensate for their sight loss. "Access to this therapy will allow many seniors to substantially retard sight loss and retain very usable vision along with their independence," said AAPD President and CEO Andrew J. Imparato.
"We applaud CMS' decision to expand Medicare coverage of the only effective treatment for this disease," said Melanie Brunson, Acting Executive Director of American Council of the Blind. "This resolution will give all Americans access to treatment, regardless of income."
Will Thomas of the Gray Panthers states that, "Expanding coverage to help prevent AMD is the right thing to do, not just for social and health policy, but for fiscal policy reasons as well."
The American Council of the Blind, founded in 1961, is the nation's leading membership organization of blind and visually impaired people.
AAPD is the largest national nonprofit cross-disability member organization in the United States, dedicated to ensuring economic self- sufficiency and political empowerment for the more than 56 million Americans with disabilities.
About The Gray Panthers
The Gray Panthers is a national organization of intergenerational activists dedicated to social change.
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