Falls are the most common cause of injury among older Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Making sure your Medicare Advantage members have an annual eye examination can go a long way to keeping them safe.
Falls Injure 36 Million Older Adults Each Year
The consequences of falls can be severe, and the CDC considers them to be a public health concern for older adults. One in four adults age 65 and older, or about 36 million seniors, fall each year, according to the CDC. The impact can be eye-opening.
- One-fifth of those who fall suffer head injuries or broken bones
- About 3 million people receive treatment at emergency departments each year for falls
- More than 800,000 are hospitalized, typically for a head injury or hip fracture, the CDC reports
- More than 32,000 older adults die each year because of falls
Older adults who fall may experience less mobility and independence as a result. And the problem is expected to increase as baby boomers continue to age. Each day, about 10,000 boomers turn 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Vision Impairment Contributes to Falls
As Americans age, vision impairment, balance and mobility issues, and loss of muscle strength can all contribute to falls, according to the CDC. Already more than 12 million Americans age 40 and older have vision impairment, and that number is projected to double by 2050 with the aging of the population, the CDC says.
Chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease also can play a role in falls, as well as the medications used to treat such conditions, as they can cause dizziness or muscle weakness.
Falls Can Impact Healthcare Costs
Falls can be costly, not only in terms of death and injuries but also because of the healthcare costs they can generate. The medical costs for treating fatal and non-fatal falls reached $50 billion in 2015, according to a 2018 study by researchers at the CDC.
About $754 million was spent treating those who ultimately died from their falls. The bulk of the money went to treat non-fatal falls, with almost $29 billion paid by Medicare, $9 billion paid by Medicaid, and $12 billion coming from private insurers and other payers.
The cost of treating falls is expected to more than double and climb past $101 billion by 2030, according to the National Council on Aging.
Eye Exams Can Help Prevent Falls
To help prevent falls, the CDC recommends that older adults have their eyes examined annually to detect conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts, which can limit a person’s vision and cause them to fall.
Eye exams also can help detect diseases such as diabetes and are considered the least-invasive, most cost-effective way of looking inside a person’s body. It’s also important for older Americans to update their eyewear regularly so they have the proper prescription.
Despite the advantages that come from a regular eye exam, almost 40% of consumers say they or their family members don’t get an eye exam as often as they would like because of cost.
Health Plan Executives Value Routine Eye Exams
Of 17 health plan executives surveyed by Versant, all see access to routine eye exams as important for detecting health issues, and almost 95% see their importance for reducing health plans’ eye care costs and members’ out-of-pocket expenses.
Providing vision insurance to your Medicare Advantage members may help protect them from falling while helping to control healthcare costs.