California Budget Legislation Signed by Gov. Brown Calls for Reinstating Some Vision Benefits


Gov. Jerry Brown.

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—State budget legislation in California, which was recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, will restore some vision care benefits to the state’s Medi-Cal program over the next three years.

The reinstatement of what’s referred to as “materials benefits” – prescription eye materials such as glasses, contact lenses and low vision devices – for adults enrolled in California’s Medi-Cal program will be effective Jan. 1, 2020, if funded by the state legislature at that time, according to language in the bill, SB 97.

The California Optometric Association (COA) and VSP praised the new legislation in a joint statement.

COA and VSP “support this legislation because it will help close a critical gap in access to care and ensure the vision needs of this at-risk population are better met by optometrists providing eyecare throughout the state,” the statement noted. “Restoring vision benefits is an important tool in the state’s fight against the diabetes epidemic — research shows that when patients have eyeglass benefits, they are two to three times as likely to obtain comprehensive eye exams that are key to early diabetes detection.”

According to the joint statement “full vision benefits will be restored in 2020” to Medi-Cal participants. Some of these benefits, including optometric services, had been eliminated in the state’s 2009 budget legislation as a way of taking on the recession.

Over the past eight years, some Medi-Cal benefits have been reinstated, including eye exams, but glasses and contact lenses have not been covered for Medi-Cal participants, according to a VSP spokeswoman. Without access to materials benefits (glasses) to round out their exam experience, adults are significantly less likely to receive an eye exam studies have indicated, according to VSP.