Many state and national resources regularly provide aid to people with vision problems. The National Eye Institute, which supports eye research, does not help individuals pay for eye care. However, if you are in need of financial aid to assess or treat an eye problem, you might contact one or more of the following programs.
You may also contact a social worker at a local hospital or other community agency. Social workers often are knowledgeable about community resources that can help people facing financial and medical problems.
Eye Exams and Surgery
EyeCare America is a public service program that provides comprehensive eye exams and eye care at no cost to eligible candidates age 65 or older and people at increased risk for glaucoma who qualify for the program for up to one year. Visit the EyeCare America’s website to see if you qualify for the program.
VISION USA is a program that provides free eye care to eligible low-income and uninsured people. To apply you must work with a charitable organization, social worker, case worker, or community health agency to submit an application.
Lions Clubs International is a volunteer service organization with local clubs. A local Lions club in or near your community may sponsor a program that may help you buy eyeglasses or get eye care.
To find a Lions club near you, visit the Club Locator https://directory.lionsclubs.org/?language=EN
Mission Cataract USA is a program that provides free cataract surgery to people of all ages who have no other means to pay. Visit the Mission Cataract USA’s website to apply and to find a participating eye care professional in your state.
InfantSEE® is a public health service program that provides eye and vision care for infants. Member optometrists provide a comprehensive eye assessment for infants between 6 and 12 months of age at no-cost to the families.
Telephone: 1-888-396-3937 or 314-983-4160
Sight for Students is a program by Vision Service Plan that provides free eye exams and eyeglasses to low income and uninsured children 18 years and younger that qualify for the program.
New Eyes provides vouchers to people who need to buy new prescription eyeglasses. Voucher applications are only available on the New Eyes website. Applications must be completed and submitted by a social service agency. Individuals will not have access to the portal.
NeedyMeds offers a database of free or at low cost medications for people who are uninsured or low income.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance is a website that helps people find assistance via 475 public and private patient assistance programs. The program is funded by pharmaceutical companies.
Patient Access Network Foundation helps with copayments for eligible uninsured and insured patients who need treatment for retinal vein occlusion, uveitis, macular diseases, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema.
RX Assist provides information, resources, news and a directory of patient assistance programs that offer affordable or free medications.
Medicare Benefit for Eye Exams
For people with diabetes—People with Medicare who have diabetes can get a dilated eye exam for diabetic retinopathy. Your doctor will decide how often you need this exam.
For people at risk for glaucoma—Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss. People at high risk for glaucoma include those with diabetes, family history of glaucoma, are African Americans age 50 or older or, are Hispanic Americans and 65 or older. Medicare will pay for an eye exam to check for glaucoma once every 12 months.
Patients must pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount after the yearly Part B deductible.
Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Offers free or low-cost health coverage for eligible children, teens up to 19 year’s old, and other family members who qualify for the program. These programs may be called by different names in your state. To apply, visit your state’s Medicaid’s website.
Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010 to put in place comprehensive health insurance reforms. To make health care more affordable, accessible, and of a higher quality for everyone including people who were previously uninsured and people who had insurance but it didn’t provide them acceptable coverage and security. People who are eligible can apply for health coverage during open enrollment.
Telephone: 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325)
The National Eye Institute (NEI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is the federal government’s lead agency for vision research that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness.
Last Reviewed: June 2016