Individuals with no or inconsistent health care coverage appear
less likely to regularly seek eye care, even if they are visually
impaired, according to a report in the March issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.
Eye disorders have an estimated economic impact of more than $51
billion annually in the United States, according to background
information in the article. "Recommendations for periodic eye
examinations vary across ocular and medical organizations, but most
recommend one- to two-year screening intervals depending on age and
ocular risk factors," the authors write.
David J. Lee, Ph.D., of University of Miami Miller School of
Medicine, and colleagues analyzed data from almost 290,000 individuals
who participated in the National Health Interview Survey from 1997
through 2005. These adults age 18 and older reported whether they were
visually impaired and whether they had seen an eye care professional in
the previous year, along with sociodemographic information such as age,
sex, education level, family income and insurance status.
In an analysis pooling all the years of data, 58.3 percent of
individuals who were severely visually impaired, 49.6 percent of those
with some visual impairment and 33.7 percent of those with no visual
impairment reporting seeking eye care in the previous year. Rates of
eye care use for individuals without health insurance were 35.9 percent
among severely visually impaired, 23.8 percent among those with some
visual impairment and 14.3 percent for those without visual impairment.
Low rates of eye care utilization were associated with no visual
impairment, lack of health insurance, male sex and low education. The
lowest rates were reported among individuals who were without health
insurance for 12 months or longer: in this group, 11.3 percent of those
with no visual impairment, 20.5 percent of those with some visual
impairment and 33.5 percent of those with severe visual impairment
accessed eye care.
"Interventions designed to increase eye care utilization rates in
select sociodemographic subgroups are needed," the authors conclude.
"Overall utilization rates may also be enhanced if progress is made
toward dramatically increasing the number of Americans with health