Low-income workers, families can get free eye exams

Dear Editor:

Low-income, uninsured workers and their families in New Jersey can sign up now through January to receive free eye care through a program called VISION USA.

During March of each year, optometrists who are members of the New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians are among over 7000 optometrists nationwide who donate their services through VISION USA, to provide free comprehensive eye exams to low-income people.

Although this service helps people of all ages, VISION USA 2001 will continue the program’s new emphasis on aiding children. This focus aligns with VISION USA’s commitment to “America’s Promise –The Alliance for Youth,” a program headed by Ret. Gen. Colin Powell that brings together business, government and non-profit organizations to help youth.

To qualify for the free eye care, people must have a job or live in a household in which at least one member is working part-time; have no health insurance that covers eye exams; meet certain income criteria based on household size and not have had an eye exam at a doctor’s office within the last two years. People can obtain application forms for VISION USA, 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141. Completed forms must be postmarked by January 22, 2001.

The application form, along with other information is available on the American Optometric Association’s website, http://www.aoanet.org in the “Meet the AOA” section. Internet access is often available at public libraries.

Applicants will also be screened for eligibility by phone from January 2 through January 31, 2001. The number to call is 1-800-766-4466. Phone lines will be open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. CST. Interested persons are encouraged to apply early in writing because of the heavy demand for the phone lines in January.

Over a quarter of a million low-income children and adults received free eye care in the first 10 years of the program. Among the 19,000 examined last year, nine out of every 100 had eye health conditions and nearly three out of four needed a new eyeglass prescription.

Administrative costs for the VISION USA 2001 program are funded by an exclusive agent from Vision Service Plan, Inc., the nation’s largest provider of eye care wellness benefits.

Shelby Baker, O.D.
New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians


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