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65 or over? Program offers free eye care

One in three older Americans has a vision-threatening disease, but many don't know it.

By JIM ROSS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 12, 2002

People age 65 and older who haven't seen an ophthalmologist in the past three years now have good reason to do so.

Thanks to a national public service program, such patients are eligible to receive a complete medical eye examination from a doctor participating in the program.

The patients also will receive a full year of treatment for any condition diagnosed at the initial visit.

The doctors -- there are more than 400 in Florida, including at least one, Dr. John Rowda of Lecanto, in Citrus County -- have agreed to accept Medicare or other insurance as payment in full, with no out-of-pocket expense to the patient.

People without insurance will receive care at no charge.

The program, known as the National Eye Care Project, is cosponsored by the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Knights Templar Eye Foundation Inc.

"By age 65, one in three Americans has some form of vision-threatening disease. Unfortunately, many aren't aware they have a disease, or believe poor vision is a natural part of the aging process," Rowda said in prepared remarks.

"We need to reach seniors with the message that proper eye care is a significant component of their overall health care."

Organizers will match eligible patients with an ophthalmologist in their area. Call toll free at 1-800-222-EYES (3937) to register.

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