by Melanie Brunson
By the time you read this, ACB will have concluded a very successful series of midyear meetings. The commitment and determination of all who braved the winter weather and persisted in spite of flight delays to take part in the board meeting, the affiliate presidents’ meeting, and the legislative seminar was very much appreciated. For those who were unable to attend this year, thanks to ACB Radio, you still have an opportunity to listen to much of the material that was provided during the affiliate presidents’ meeting and legislative seminar. Both meetings were streamed on ACB Radio, and the recordings of those programs are now available in the ACB Radio archives. You can find them at http://acbradio.org/midyear2015, or listen to them over the telephone by calling (231) 460-1047.
I also want to share with you the legislative agenda that was discussed during our legislative seminar. Three issues were presented as ACB’s legislative priorities for 2015. These included: support for H.R. 729, the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2015; seeking reintroduction of the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act; and support for Senate ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty for the visually impaired.
The first of these measures, H.R. 729, would establish a five-year nationwide demonstration project to evaluate the fiscal impact of a permanent change to the Social Security Act that would allow Medicare to pay for certain low-vision devices that are the most function-rich, most powerful, and least affordable by Medicare beneficiaries. Individuals would be eligible to participate in the demonstration project only after completing a clinical evaluation performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist who would deem a low-vision device to be medically necessary for that individual.
The second measure, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, has yet to be introduced in this Congress. However, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), who introduced this legislation in the previous Congress, is planning to do so again. He is currently seeking additional co-sponsors for his bill. Some of the highlights of this legislation include: ensuring that all students who are blind or visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities, are identified, and properly served by schools; improving data collection about the quality and scope of special education and related services provided to students who are blind or visually impaired; holding states accountable for insuring that all students with visual impairments receive the specialized instruction and services they need and that such services are provided by properly trained personnel; and increased responsibilities of the U.S. Department of Education for monitoring and reporting on states’ compliance with their obligations with respect to instruction and services provided to students who are blind or visually impaired.
The final legislative imperative, ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, is the subject of ACB president Kim Charlson’s message, which appears elsewhere in this issue, so I will simply recommend that you read her column for a summary of this imperative. Additional details about all of these issues, including copies of our background papers on each issue, can be found on the ACB web site. Here are the links:
Imperative I: H.R. 729, Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2015, http://acb.org/LILVdevice
Imperative II: The Reintroduction of the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, http://acb.org/LICogswellMacy
Imperative III: What the Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind is and the need for the U.S. Senate to Ratify It, http://acb.org/LIMarrakesh
We urge each one of you to contact your representatives in the House and Senate to express your support for these measures. For those of you who have visited with Congressional offices during midyear, we urge you to follow up those visits with letters of thanks, phone calls, or other means of continuing to build relationships with the people you contacted during your initial visit. And of course, if you, or any Congressional staffers you speak with about these issues, have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Eric Bridges or me in the ACB Arlington office. Thank you for your contribution to ACB’s advocacy efforts.