CHICAGO—In an effort to preserve coverage for comprehensive eye exams for children, 101 industry organizations spearheaded by Prevent Blindness last week sent to U.S. Senate leaders a letter that outlined the importance of retaining the “essential health benefits” (EHB) definition in any effort the Senate undertakes to draft new health care legislation.

The “essential health benefits” wording includes coverage for children’s vision services (including eye examinations and glasses) as well as preventive health services such as vision screenings, according to a Prevent Blindness spokeswoman.

The Senate is currently working on companion legislation to the House-passed American Healthcare Act (AHCA). The group’s letter, sent to majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and minority leader Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and copied to all other members of the Senate, can be viewed here.

The current House version of the AHCA would allow states to determine what EHBs should be offered on insurance markets in their state or apply for waivers to opt out of providing basic, preventive medical services, according to Prevent Blindness.

In their letter, the 101 organizations said they are asking for Senate “support in preserving coverage for a comprehensive eye examination for children as well as preventive health services, including vision screenings, as defined under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s essential health benefits (EHB).” Vision impairments and eye disorders are the third leading chronic condition among children, and the annual costs for direct medical care, vision aids and devices, and caregivers amounting to $10 billion per year, according to the letter.

Among the groups in addition to Prevent Blindness that signed the letter are: American Academy of Optometry (AAO), Optometry Giving Sight (OGS), Pediatric Ophthalmology of Montefiore Hospital Medical Center and, among others, the Department of Ophthalmology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University.

The letter also stated that the organizations are “concerned that an insurmountable burden would be placed on state public health infrastructure in the absence of national policies that support and prioritize preventive measures.”

“We urge the Senate to preserve the children’s vision coverage as currently defined under the ACA’s EHB. Prevention is a critical element in a strong public health infrastructure, and we ask that the Senate work to preserve the ability for children to receive eye and vision health services that establish a foundation for healthy development, school readiness, and lifelong vision health,” the letter concluded.