Testing New Models to Increase Vision Screening in New York City Middle and High Schools
Special Projects Fund
October 28, 2015
Undiagnosed vision problems, particularly common for children with limited access to preventive and vision health services, can seriously hinder a child’s ability to learn.
New York City children are offered free school-based vision screenings up to the fifth grade; however, no screening is required after that. This is problematic, as a significant number of students develop vision problems later in life—by high school, it is estimated that 25% of students cannot read the blackboard without corrective lenses. Furthermore, students generally need a new prescription for glasses annually. In 2015, NYSHealth awarded the Fund for Public Health in New York (the Fund) a grant to pilot a vendor-based model that will provide vision screenings, exams, and glasses to middle and high school students in New York City.
Under this grant, the Fund, in collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Office of School Health (OSH), conducted a demonstration project to test a low-cost, vendor-based model that provided vision services to more than 9,000 seventh and tenth graders at 86 middle and high schools in low-income communities. The Fund selected a qualified vendor to conduct exams and provide glasses to all students who need them, billing Medicaid for the 60% of students who are expected to be eligible for coverage. Project staff coordinated with the schools and parents on a plan to obtain parental consent for Medicaid billing as applicable—a key component for the model’s sustainability. The Fund developed an insurance billing system to connect the vendor with student Medicaid information and allow for an easy flow of information between the vendor and OSH on parental consent and reimbursement rates.