August 17th, 2009
03:02 PM ET
14 years ago

CNN Truth Squad: No eye care until you're blind in one eye?

The Statement:
Florence Mackie of North Carolina writes to CNN, "I got a disturbing e-mail that said the new health bill would not help a person with macular degeneration until they lost the vision in one eye first." She asks, "Is this true?"

The facts and the verdict after the jump:

The Facts:
Macular degeneration is a disease that gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Chances of suffering from it increase with old age. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness for people age 65 and older and affects more than 10 million Americans, according to the American Medical Association.

Whites are "much more likely" to lose vision due to AMD than African-Americans, and women "appear to be at greater risk than men," according to the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

There is no final version of health-care legislation in either the House or the Senate. But each chamber has a version of a bill that is available to be read online . The House bill has more than 1,000 pages; the Senate bill has more than 600.

Neither bill contains the words "macular," "degeneration," or "sight." Neither establishes special rules over eye health.

The rumor appears to stem from concerns expressed by some conservatives earlier this year during the battle over stimulus legislation.

In a commentary published by Bloomberg News on February 9, former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey wrote, "In 2006, a U.K. health board decreed that elderly patients with macular degeneration had to wait until they went blind in one eye before they could get a costly new drug to save the other eye. It took almost three years of public protests before the board reversed its decision."

She added, "If the Obama administration's economic stimulus bill passes the Senate in its current form, seniors in the U.S. will face similar rationing."

The example seems to have been taken out of context by opponents of the current health care reform plan, who are suggesting that impending legislation would target macular degeneration.

The Web site, shared by several Virginia newspapers, published an opinion piece this month from a Virginia resident stating that under the House bill, "Surgery to correct macular degeneration would be denied until the patient lost sight in one eye."

Chain e-mails are having a substantial effect on the health care debate. On the Obama administration's "Reality Check" Web site, which the administration says is aimed at counteracting myths about health care, one of the top two videos is headlined, "The return of the viral e-mail."

The Verdict:
False. There is no such rule in the health care legislation working its way through Congress.

Filed under: Health care fact check
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