An extension of the freeze on patients’ Medicare rebates to June 2020 is disappointing for Australian optometry patients, after Government investment in rebates was already reduced by an estimated $50 million in 2015.
This Budget decision is of concern to Optometry Australia as the changes will further jeopardise the eye health of Australians.
“The patient rebate has been frozen for a further two years and there is no certainty that indexation will be recommenced from 2020,” said Optometry Australia CEO Genevieve Quilty. “It’s obviously going to be a concern to optometry patients because when they access optometry services up to 2020 their rebates are going to continue to be frozen. This comes on top of the 5% rebate reductions imposed on 1 January 2015 and many years of inadequate indexation well below CPI.
“This latest measure effectively means that each year until 2020, as handed down in the Budget, patient rebates will be over 30 per cent less than what they should be had CPI been applied since the late 1990s. So we are falling further and further behind the real cost of providing clinical care.”
With over 12 million Australians experiencing eye health and vision problems at an overall cost to the Australian economy of more than $16 billion annually, eye care needs additional expenditure, not less.
“Given the enormous cost of vision disorders to the Australian economy, the Government needs to be investing to ensure that all Australians have ready access to optometric care. This means ensuring that optometry practices are sustainable and eye care is affordable, not reducing Medicare rebates for important services,” said Ms Quilty.
The changes seem short-sighted when investing in preventative eye health and vision care through Australian optometrists provides so many immediate and long term benefits. Crucially, Access Economics estimates a return of $5 for every $1 invested in preventing avoidable vision loss. This return is understandable given that 80 per cent of all visual impairment is preventable or treatable if detected early.
Ms Quilty called on the Government to re-think its decision to freeze patient rebates for important eye care services in the interests of population health and the Australian economy.
For more information on optometry services in Australia, including our pre-Budget submission, visit www.optometry.org.au.
Trinity Scarf, Optometry Australia – 0413 581 769 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Kerry I’Anson, Optometry Australia – 0419 004 920 or email@example.com
Optometry Australia is the peak professional body for optometrists. Representing around 90% 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.