Mandatory Vision Checks

9 years 3 months 1 week ago June 21, 2007 Jun 21, 2007 Thursday, June 21 2007 Thursday, June 21, 2007 5:48:05 PM CDT in News

The law is aimed to identify vision problems early in life and comes after years of debate.

For Kelly Brawley, the law hits close to home.

"My husband is an optometrist in St. Louis, and we have two small children and friends who have children who have already been diagnosed with vision problems," Brawley said.

The new law requires a comprehensive eye exam for all Missouri public school students in kindergarten or first grade. Along with Brawley and her husband, several Missouri optometrists think the bill will make learning easier for many kids.

"Approximately 80 percent of what a child learns in the course of their life, their early life especially, is vision-based. Yet only 13 percent of kids will have an eye exam during that time in their life," Dr. Tom Greene, President of the Missouri Optometrist Association, said.

The bill is a four-year effort by its sponsors. They persuaded opponents who worried about the cost of eye exams to parents and the state.

"About 80 percent of children will be paid for by insurance or Medicaid, then this bill also allows $100,000 in state funds to be used," Rep. Terry Swinger of Caruthersville said.

Whatever the cost, Brawley thinks good vision can make the difference in a child's life.

"If they're not seeing, they may not do well in school and see education negatively, versus a positive experience in their life," Brawley said.

The governor says many optometrists around Missouri will see children who can't afford the exam for free or a reduced price. The vision program is set to go into effect in the fall of 2008.

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