Disparities in Receipt of Eye Exams Among Medicare Part B Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries with Diabetes - United States, 2017.

Research paper by Elizabeth A EA Lundeen, John J Wittenborn, Stephen R SR Benoit, Jinan J Saaddine

Indexed on: 20 Nov '19Published on: 15 Nov '19Published in: MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report


Approximately 30 million persons in the United States have diabetes.* Persons with diabetes are at risk for vision loss from diabetic retinopathy and other eye diseases (1). Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetes-related eye disease, affects 29% of U.S. adults aged ≥40 years with diabetes (2) and is the leading cause of incident blindness among working-age adults (1). It is caused by chronically high blood glucose damaging blood vessels in the retina. Annual dilated eye exams are recommended for persons with diabetes because early detection and timely treatment of diabetic eye diseases can prevent irreversible vision loss (3,4). Studies have documented prevalence of annual eye exams among U.S. adults with diabetes (5,6); however, a lack of recent state-level data limits identification of geographic disparities in adherence to this recommendation. Medicare claims from the 50 states, the District of Columbia (DC), Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) were examined to assess the prevalence of eye exams in 2017 among beneficiaries with diabetes who were continuously enrolled in Part B fee-for-service insurance, which covers annual eye exams for beneficiaries with diabetes.** This report also examines disparities, by state and race/ethnicity, in receipt of eye exams. Nationally, 54.1% of beneficiaries with diabetes had an eye exam in 2017. Prevalence ranged from 43.9% in Puerto Rico to 64.8% in Rhode Island. Fewer than 50% of beneficiaries received an eye exam in seven states (Alabama, Alaska, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, West Virginia, and Wyoming) and Puerto Rico. Non-Hispanic white (white) beneficiaries had a higher prevalence of receiving an eye exam (55.6%) than did non-Hispanic blacks (blacks) (48.9%) and Hispanics (48.2%). Barriers to receiving eye care (e.g., suboptimal clinical care coordination and referral, low health literacy, and lack of perceived need for care) might limit Medicare beneficiaries' ability to follow this preventive care recommendation. Understanding and addressing these barriers might prevent irreversible vision loss among persons with diabetes.