A collection of survey responses from 3,058 Medicare beneficiaries revealed that only 26.1% use low vision devices and 3.5% use low vision rehabilitation, according to researchers.

Because so little is known about whether sociodemographic disparities exist in the use of low vision services by Medicare beneficiaries, researchers from Harvard and the University of Michigan designed a study to better understand the possible connections. Their cross-sectional population-based study evaluated if sociodemographic or economic factors were associated with self-reported use of low vision devices or low vision rehabilitation among Medicare beneficiaries who self-reported vision impairment. The study used data from the National Health Interview Survey vision supplement from 2002, 2008 and 2016.

In a model adjusted for ocular diagnoses, Hispanic individuals and individuals from other races or ethnicities—but not blacks—were significantly less likely to report using low vision devices than white individuals. In another model not adjusted for ocular diagnoses, black individuals were also significantly less likely to report low vision device use. The study found no significant racial or ethnic disparities for reported use of low vision rehabilitation.

Researchers concluded that additional research is needed to clarify the association between sociodemographics and use of low vision services in the Medicare population. If that association is confirmed, it may suggest that policy makers should consider coverage of low vision devices under Medicare to address disparities.

Choi S, Stagg BC, Ehrlich JR. Disparities in low-vision device use among older US Medicare recipients. JAMA Ophthalmol. September 06, 2018. [Epub ahead of print].