President of Optometry Australia Kate Gifford said that: “The announcement yesterday by Mr Abbott relating to GP co-payments contained a sting for all optometry patients–a further two year freeze on Medicare fees for optometry services, along with other allied health practitioners, until July 2018.
“The optometry sector will be urgently pressing the Government to reconsider these measures so that optometrists can continue to provide the highest level of care to their patients.
“The optometry sector already has a freeze on indexation of Medicare items that has been in place since 2012 and now the Government has extended this further. These additional freezes, coming on top of an almost 5 per cent rebate reduction effective 1 January 2015, have the potential to threaten access to essential preventative care within every Australian community.
“Notably yesterday’s GP rebate cut announcement excluded the more vulnerable in the community. Optometry Australia has been calling for similar exemptions since the May 2014 Federal Budget cuts and will continue to do so with renewed vigour,” Ms Gifford said.
Almost half of Australia’s population suffers from vision or eye health issues. Evidence shows that 80 per cent of these issues are preventable or avoidable. Early and regular checks by an optometrist are a key part in identifying eye and vision disorders.
“We believe that the Government is putting at risk access to eye care, particularly for socially disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations. While these are often the groups that most need eye care, they are often least able to meet out-of-pocket health care costs. Yet the Government’s changes make it increasingly unsustainable for practices to accept only the Medicare rebate as payment for their services. In real terms, these rebates keep reducing while patient servicing costs keep increasing.
“With an ageing population, the need for ready access to optometry care will only increase”, Ms Gifford said.
According to an Access Economics for Vision 2020 report (2009), the total economic cost of vision loss in Australia is estimated to be $16.6bn – this is up $6.8bn from when this study was last undertaken in 2004. This represents an average growth in the cost of vision loss of $1.36bn a year.
- Richard Amos, Royce Communications, +61 0418 344 978
- Tony Faccenda, Royce Communications, +61 411 231 433
About Optometry Australia
Optometry Australia is the peak professional body for optometrists. Representing more than 90 per cent of all Australian-based optometrists, Optometry Australia’s focus is to lead and advance the profession of optometry by putting eye-health front and centre of Australian health care. Optometry Australia was formerly known as Optometrists Association Australia. The name change was made on 28 May 2014 to better reflect its role and purpose.
A PDF version of this mdia release is available for download here.