Bill protects charity aid for eyes, ears
Need for prescription hinders donations
OLYMPIA – The Legislature gave final approval this week to a bill that will allow charities like the Union Gospel Mission to distribute used eyeglasses.
After several trips back and forth between the two chambers, the House of Representatives gave unanimous approval to HB 2261, which allows charities to provide glasses and hearing aids to poor or uninsured people without worrying about lawsuits.
Several groups, including the mission and Lions Clubs, distributed used eyeglasses until a decision by the state Board of Optometry determined that the practice violated federal law unless the recipient had a prescription. The charities shut down their operations, although donations of glasses continued.
State Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, who sponsored one version of the bill, said that at one point, the Union Gospel Mission had more than 10,000 pairs of glasses it couldn’t distribute.
Protecting the charities against lawsuits means they could resume giving glasses and hearing aids to some of the state’s neediest residents, Padden said. Medicaid typically does not cover glasses, routine hearing exams or hearing aids, he added.
Padden’s bill was limited to glasses; the House bill, sponsored by Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview, also covered hearing aids. After each passed one chamber with overwhelming support, the differences were worked out on Takko’s bill.
It now needs Gov. Chris Gregoire’s signature.