A Florida congressman is calling for the federal government to make sure blind Americans are not being denied some of their Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
At the end of last month, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., offered a proposal to “require the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct an evaluation on the extent to which the Medicare and Medicaid programs provide reasonable accommodations to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.” The bill is being co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.
Bilirakis noted that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are required by law to offer reasonable accommodations for the disabled including the blind. But several advocacy groups have noted that the CMS often offers printed material that the blind cannot access.
Last week, Bilirakis explained why he had brought out his bill.
“Today, whether it’s large print or text-to-voice technology, blind and visually impaired Americans, like myself, are more readily able to access information than ever before,” Bilirakis said. “Receiving critical health care information from Medicare and Medicaid should be no different. My legislation will investigate if CMS is providing reasonable accommodations for its many beneficiaries with visual disabilities. This is about equal access for programs that help millions of Americans.”
Bilirakis’ proposal has gotten the support of the American Council of the Blind (ACB), the American Foundation for the Blind and the Perkins School for the Blind.
ACB President Kim Charlson endorsed Bilirakis’ proposal last week.
“This legislation will make it possible for people who are blind to independently read and understand important health-related information — an issue that has been on our radar for many years now,” Charlson said. “With today’s technology, the continuing lack of vital health documents in an accessible format for people who are blind and visually impaired is inexcusable, and puts up a barrier to quality health care for a growing percentage of Americans.”
"This legislation will make it possible for people who are blind to independently read and understand important health-related information — an issue that has been on our radar for many years now," said ACB president Kim Charlson. "With today's technology, the continuing lack of vital health documents in an accessible format for people who are blind and visually impaired is inexcusable, and puts up a barrier to quality health-care for a growing percentage of Americans."
Eric Bridges, the executive director of ACB, also threw his support behind Bilirakis’ proposal.
"There's a lot of missing data that makes it hard for us to know just how widespread the problem is," said Bridges. "But what we do know is that our office continually receives complaints on CMS's failure to provide accessible materials, which is resulting in serious disruptions for individuals' health care coverage due to a lack of equal access to vital print materials."
The bill has been sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which Bilirakis sits, and the Ways and Means Committee.