The Cost Of Visual Impairment

The Cost of Vision Impairment added by Caitlin Padick

What is the economic cost to the nation for persons with visual impairment? It is estimated that using the value of a dollar from 2003, the cost of services for people with vision impairment, over and above the cost for those without, is 566,000 dollars per person. The cost for services for people with vision impairment born in 2000 alone is estimated at 2.5 billion. The most amazing part of this number? Only 6% of that money goes to medical services such as doctors visits. The rest is spent on quality of life modifications and special education (16%) and the bulk is spent on reimbursement of lost wages (77%). This amount is in direct comparison to the 417,000 dollars spent per person with hearing disabilities.

The article does no analysis of the social or economic impact on the United States however we can assume that the cost of providing for persons with disabilities is a hardship for most families. The report does not specify whether or not the lost wages of parents who stay home are included in the figure, however many parents are unable to afford care for their children with disabilities and so take time off to do so. Even if parents are able to afford care, the costs can be astronomical. What is our duty, as a country to provide economically for those with disabilities? According to the National Education Association, the US Congress is currently funding IDEA at 18% rather than the 40% promised when IDEA was passed. This only covers in-school costs for students with disabilities, what happens when they go home?

The economic implications of the high life costs associated with disabilities raises many moral issues. As research continues to explore why disabilities exist, it becomes more clear that most are not determined by pre-natal or adolescent environment but rather have no man made cause, therefore is it our duty as a society to financially aid those who are born with a disability knowing that it could have been us, our family? Similarly should in home modifications for persons with disabilities be provided free of charge to the family and billed to the government? Should care be provided for all children with disabilities? Should adults with disabilities be given more time off for anticipated medical issues? These questions need answering as the cost of having a disability continues to rise.

References:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Economic costs associated with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and vision impairment —- United States, 2003. MMWR 2004;53:57-9. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5303a4.htm

National Education Association. http://www.nea.org/lac/idea/ideaposition2.html