Thursday, October 29, 2009

House Releases New Health Reform Bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today a new health care reform bill today that includes a moderate version of the government-run public insurance plan option. The bill is a combined version of health reform legislation passed by the House Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor committees earlier this summer.

The bill could come to the House floor next week, after the special election on Tuesday, November 3. The full text of the legislation can be found at:

The Senate continues to work on merging the bills from the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Pensions and Labor (HELP) Committee.

Prevent Blindness America continues to monitor health care reform legislation in both the House and the Senate to ensure that vision and eye health remain components of any legislation moving forward. Tell your Member of Congress about the importance of vision and eye health! Got to:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Health Care Reform: Next Step Merging House and Senate Bills

This week the Senate Finance Committee passed the America’s Healthy Future Act, a bill to reform the nation’s health system. The bill passed by a vote of 14-9. The bill must now be combined with the proposal passed earlier this summer by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Prevent Blindness America sent letters to House and Senate leadership and key stakeholders in the legislative process requesting that vision and eye health remain components of any health care reform bill. We ask our advocates to do the same:

All Americans deserve access to and coverage for comprehensive eye care. Good vision is an integral component to health and well-being, affects virtually all activities of daily living, and impacts individuals physically, emotionally, socially and financially. Loss of vision can have a devastating impact on individuals and their families. The inclusion of vision and eye health in any health care reform legislation is critically important. Half of all blindness can be prevented through education, early detection and treatment. Vision and eye health services, programs and research are critical to public health. We know that the annual cost of adult vision problems in the U.S. is approximately $51.4 billion and that we can save our public health care system billions of dollars if we identify vision and eye problems early and link our patients to the care they need.

Prevent Blindness America sought changes to the Senate HELP and House Tri-Committee bills to ensure that eye and vision health were covered under wellness and prevention programs. Specifically, Prevent Blindness America requested that the HELP bill include vision and eye health in school-based health clinics and under the Healthy Aging, Living Well section regarding types of screening activities.

Additionally, Prevent Blindness America is seeking a new section to the HELP bill authorizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vision Health Initiative, a critical eye and vision health program funded since FY 2003, which is similar to the oral health program authorized under the bill. The Vision Health Initiative’s goal is to identify preventable disease early saving sight and our nation’s health care system billions of dollars. The Vision Health Initiative includes projects to ensure appropriate follow-up care, a national data collection system, public education, strategies to integrate vision and eye health into all of our nation’s public health systems, and engagement of primary healthcare systems in addressing vision and eye health.

Under the Vision Health Initiative, Prevent Blindness America and its affiliates, regional offices, and expert partners across the country have established new programs in vision preservation and prevention aimed to improve the vision and eye health of all Americans. This successful program is identifying scientifically sound screenings for children and adults and ensuring that those who need care are linked directly to appropriate care. As the country moves forward toward health reform, public-private partnerships such as the CDC’s Vision Health Initiative are a model for effective, cost-efficient prevention and wellness programs.

Download a copy of the August 2009 Prevent Blindness America CDC report here:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Replacement of Proven Sight-Saving Drug Critical to Protecting Vision in Newborns

Prevent Blindness America Advises Doctors and Expectant Parents to Educate Themselves on Shortage of Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment

CHICAGO (Oct. 7, 2009) – Due to a recent change in drug manufacturers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has responded to reports of a shortage of Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment by offering guidelines on how to obtain a supply. Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment is the recommended drug treatment for ophthalmia neonatorum, commonly known as “Babies’ Sore Eyes.” According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment is also approved for the treatment of superficial ocular infections involving the conjunctiva and/or cornea caused by organisms susceptible to erythromycin.

Prevent Blindness America, the nation’s oldest volunteer eye health and safety group, was founded more than 100 years ago as an organization dedicated to eradicating unnecessary vision loss to Babies’ Sore Eyes. At the time, some healthy babies developed blinding eye infections days after birth. It was discovered that administering silver nitrate to the newborn’s eyes immediately after birth successfully prevented the infection from developing. Today, Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment is now used instead of silver nitrate.

Bausch and Lomb and Fera Pharmaceuticals are increasing the production of Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment in response to the shortage. Currently, the FDA Drug Shortages Web site has information regarding availability of Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment at:

“We cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure we do everything we can to protect the vision of our children,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America. “Our organization was founded on the belief that all children should have the best possible opportunity for a full lifetime of healthy vision. We applaud the efforts of Bausch & Lomb, Fera Pharmaceuticals, the CDC and the FDA to address this shortage and urge them to do all they can to make sure this important issue is addressed with the highest importance.”

For professionals, the CDC recommends the following to secure supplies:

1. Review your supplies of Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment (0.5%) routinely.

2. Reserve current supplies of Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment (0.5%) for neonatal prophylaxis use.

3. For normal replacement supplies, contact your wholesale distributor directly.

4. For severely low supplies (i.e., depletion within a week), contact your wholesale distributor or call Bausch and Lomb customer service at 1-800-323-0000 directly. Notify the FDA drug shortage e-mail account ( ), if supplies are not available.

5. CDC has consulted with other experts about alternate recommendations for extreme situations where erythromycin ophthalmic ointment is not available. These recommendations are provided at:

For more information on the Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment shortage or general children’s eye health topics, please call Prevent Blindness America at 1-800-331-2020.

Download the press release
Department of Health and Human Services Letter

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

World Sight Day October 8

This Thursday, October 8, is World Sight Day. In recognition of this day, Prevent Blindness America is joining with Vision 2020/USA and a collaborative of its members to host a Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill on "Gender Equity in Eye Care and Blindness Prevention," the topic for this year's World Sight Day. With Prevent Blindness America, other participating Vision 2020/USA organizations include: Alliance for Eye & Vision Research, American Optometric Association, Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology, the Dana Center for Preventive Ophthalmology, the Eye Bank Association of America, Helen Keller International, the International Eye Foundation, Lighthouse International, Optometry Giving Sight, Seva Foundation, VisionSpring and Women's Eye Health.

For more information on the 2009 World Sight Day and how vision and eye health, go to For more information about Prevent Blindness America, go to

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

If Health Reform Fails

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issued a report this week indicating that, if health reform fails this year:
  • Health care costs could increase more than 35% in every state by 2019
  • The number of people without health insurance would increase by more than 30% in 29 states (the number of uninsured would increase by at least 10% in every state) in the next ten years
  • Employers in 46 states would see their insurance premiums increase by more than 60% by 2019
  • Every state would see spending for Medicaid/Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) increase by more than 75% by 2019.
The full report from Robert Wood Johnson can be downloaded here:

The Health Reform debate continues in Congress. Prevent Blindness America continues to advocate for vision and eye health as components to any health care reform package. We join our other public health and patient advocacy partners in urging the Senate Finance Committee to include a Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund in health reform legislation. The HELP Committee bill includes such a fund to ensure that health reform strengthens the U.S. public health infrastructure and moves our health system toward one that is focused on prevention and preparedness (food safety issues, disease outbreaks, etc.). It is imperative that the U.S. health system focus on wellness and health promotion, and current health reform legislation is an excellent opportunity to reinforce this goal.

For more information on Prevent Blindness America and our health reform efforts, go to