Medicare to Provide Payment for the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System

August 16, 2013

The Argus II® Retinal Prosthesis System, the first and only artificial retina to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, will be at least partially covered under Medicare. Payment for both the system and implantation surgery will be provided. Further details of the implementation of Medicare payments — including the amounts of reimbursement and out-of-pocket costs — are forthcoming. People who are considered disabled because of vision loss may qualify for Medicare.

“Medicare reimbursement means that many people who can benefit from the Argus II can get access to it.” says Stephen Rose, Ph.D., chief research officer, Foundation Fighting Blindness. “This is outstanding news for people who have lost their vision to retinitis pigmentosa."

Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., developer of the Argus II, announced in June that the device will be offered at 12 clinical centers throughout the United States. Announcements for some of the centers are listed on Second Sight’s news page. Additional clinical-center announcements are forthcoming.

The Argus II consists of an external video camera mounted on a pair of sunglasses which sends visual images to a 60-electrode grid surgically implanted on the retina. The grid converts those images to electrical signals, which are sent back to the brain.

Users of the device perceive patterns of light, which the brain learns to interpret as vision. The device has enabled clinical trial participants who are profoundly blind from advanced retinitis pigmetnosa to see shapes, recognize large letters and significantly improve mobility.

The Argus II has also received regulatory approval in Europe.