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Vision 2020 Australia welcomes Budget focus on preventative health

MEDIA RELEASE

Vision 2020 Australia welcomes the focus on preventative health and medical research in the 2017-18 Federal Budget, which has the potential to benefit the eye health and vision care sector. 

The Australian Government committed to progressively restore indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule rebate over the next three years, with general practitioner bulk billing resuming from 1 July 2017. 

Carla Northam, CEO of Vision 2020 Australia, says: ‘While lifting the Medicare indexation freeze is a positive move which will help reverse pressures placed on the sector in previous years, it needs to happen immediately. Optometry, as part of Allied Health professions, will be affected by the freeze until 2019. 

‘Optometrists are on the frontline of eye care, ensuring prevention, treatment and referral to specialist services and ophthalmologists. With 90 per cent of blindness and vision loss preventable or treatable if detected early, it’s essential that every Australian has access to optometrists.’ 

Significant investment has been made towards doubling Australia’s current medical research funding. 

The 2017-18 Federal Budget kicks off spending from the Medical Research Future Fund, estimated to be worth $20 billion by 2020.  

Ms Northam says: ‘Around 90 per cent of blindness and vision loss is avoidable or treatable if detected early.

‘What’s more, measures to improve or restore sight are among the most cost effective of all healthcare interventions, returning $4 for every $1 invested.

‘It makes good sense for the Government to invest in eye health and vision care research and clinical trials to ensure no Australian suffers blindness or vision loss if it can be prevented.’ 

The Australian Government also restated its commitment to strengthening primary health care and will work towards improving access to and delivery, quality and coordination of these services.

However, a significant downfall of the Budget is the failure to address Close the Gap targets for health, including for eye health and vision care.

Ms Northam says: ‘Vision impairment and blindness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is three times that of non-Indigenous Australians.

‘Uncorrected refractive error causes almost two-thirds of vision impairment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, yet there is no nationally consistent subsidised spectacles scheme. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, but backlogs prevent access to surgery. And Australia is the only developed country in the world to still have active trachoma in remote Aboriginal communities. 

‘While the health budget includes some measures, such as the Indigenous Research Fund, it is inexcusable that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are largely forgotten, given their urgent need for improved health outcomes.’

See our full 2017-18 Federal Budget analysis

ENDS

For more information: Adam Sawell at Vision 2020 Australia

03 9656 2020, 0401 096 507 or asawell@vision2020australia.org.au

About Vision 2020 Australia

As the national peak body for the eye health and vision care sector, Vision 2020 Australia represents over 50 member organisations involved in: local and global eye care; health promotion; low vision support; vision rehabilitation; eye research; professional assistance; and community support. Established in October 2000, Vision 2020 Australia is part of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, a global initiative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

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