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Community Service: Should You Offer Free Eye Exams at Your Local School District?

According to a study by the American Public Health Association, some 25 percent of K-12 children have vision problems. Further, a 2011 study of low-income first grade students revealed 95 percent of those who were found to need glasses during their kindergarten screenings still didn’t have them one year later. A period of critical academic development, students who struggle to see in first grade will be at a disadvantage throughout their academic careers.

As an optometrist, should you offer free community service exams at your local school district? Would your business insurance for optometrists cover you while working away from your office? Is there a way you can help at minimal risk?



Read on.

The Need is Significant

Learning is primarily visual. Children who have difficulty seeing often exhibit underachievement, disengagement and behavioral problems. In other words, that “unruly” child in the back row with whom the teacher can’t seem to get in touch may be troubled because they can’t see and have no idea how to express their problem. After all, until someone tells a child their vision is different, they really have no way of knowing. “Normal” is what’s normal for them because they don’t know how others see.

The Solution is Simple

“The need has a pretty simple solution,” Nancy Prail told EdSource.org, The director of ChildSight, a program of Helen Keller International, said bringing clinicians to schools makes it much easier to get children the help they need. Taking time off from work to take a child to a doctor to spend a lot of money on glasses can be a hardship for many low-income families. And yet, this might be the child’s best chance of escaping poverty. So, if children can’t get to doctors, healthcare professionals need to come to the children.

But Easier Said Than Done

Of course, this means someone has to volunteer their time as well as provide the glasses the children will need. Because Medicaid covers low-income children’s eye exams, doctors can often do so at minimal financial risk. This could also help offset the cost of examining children who don’t qualify. Still, it’s a lot to expect one doctor to do alone.

Working with a Non-Profit

Fortunately, a number of philanthropic organizations have taken up the mantle. In California for example, several nonprofits are working directly with school districts. These include ChildSight, Vision to Learn and See Well to Learn. Community service volunteering with organizations such as these to offer free exams at your local school district is a good way to give back, while earning a charitable deduction from the IRS.

Working with an accredited organization also reduces the possibility of incurring a claim against your business insurance for optometrists. It’s a win-win-win situation. You’ll get the satisfaction of helping children do well in school, the child can see properly for the first time and the charity gets the help it needs.

Before you schedule your next eye exam (on- or off-site), make sure your business insurance plan for optometrists is crystal clear. Explore your options with CoverHound.

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