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Medicare Budget inclusion to be a game changer for diabetic eye health

The 2016 Federal Budget has allocated funding towards reducing the impact of diabetic related eye disease, a measure that is particularly significant for people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent living with diabetes. 
 
General Practitioners will be able to claim a rebate for photographs taken using a non-mydriatic retinal camera, through two new Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items. 
 
The simple and minimally-invasive testing process takes images of a patient’s eye, and will work to reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy—a sight threatening disease that affects 25 to 44 per cent of people with diabetes throughout their lives. 
 
Coupled with a high prevalence, it is estimated that up to 80 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people with diabetes do not attend regular eye screenings. This is often a result of rural and remote communities having limited access to optometric services, as well as socioeconomic barriers. 
 
The new measure will enable GPs to provide the screening service within a regular consultation, rather than referring at-risk patients to another practitioner and delaying the response. Considering almost 98 per cent of blindness from diabetic retinopathy is preventable with early detection and treatment, the new measure will provide a critical boost in this area. 
 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at risk of diabetic retinopathy will be eligible for the new MBS item annually and non-indigenous Australians every two years. 
 
The $33.8 million measure will come into effect on 1 November 2016, and will benefit approximately 370,000 people, a quarter of those being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.
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