Insurance Coverage Alone Doesn't Ensure Children Receive Eye Exams

A new study published in August by the University of Michigan indicates that children from less affluent homes, even when they are covered by health insurance, still are not as likely as more affluent children to get vision screenings to identify conditions like lazy eye which can cause irreversible damage to vision if not treated.

The researchers tracked health insurance claims for almost 900,000 children from birth through age 14.  They were looking for how often kids at different income levels visited eye doctors and the diagnosis rates for stabismus (crossed eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye).

The lower the income level the fewer eye care visits they found for those children in the study.  Lower income children were also less likely to be diagnosed with strabismus or amblyopia than children from higher-income families.  By age 10, 3.6 percent of low-income children were diagnosed with strabismus and and 2 percent with amblyopia. Incidences of diagnosis of these problems for kids in the highest income bracket were 50 to 100 percent greater.

The study estimates that this lack of eye care visits in lower-income children resulted in 12,800 missed cases of strabismus and 5,400 missed cases of amblyopia.

The study’s lead author Dr. Joshua D. Stein concluded that less affluent parents may have more difficulty taking time off from work or face transportation challenges getting a child to an eye care provider.  He also said that there may be fewer eye care providers available in less affluent areas.

Based on an analysis of our data from KidSight Colorado this is also true in Colorado.  The study reinforces the critical need for follow-up after a child is identified with a problem after our vision screening.  We are working to ensure that every child identified with a problem visits an eye doctor for a complete eye exam.  Our program has available resources to help families who cannot afford the cost of an eye exam and glasses for their child.  Please contact Holly Rutherford-Allen at 720-325-7078 for more information.