Calling all optometrists to write to your Local MP
One of Optometry Australia’s key messages to Government this year is to bring back two yearly eye exams for people aged 40-65. We need you to write to your local member of parliament to drive this change.
To refresh your memory….
As part of the 2014-15 budget, the Australian Government announced changes to the frequency with which patients considered ‘asymptomatic’ would be able to access a Medicare rebate for a comprehensive eye health examination, including extending the allowable time period to access a comprehensive eye health examination from two yearly to once every three years for patients less than 65 years of age.
Why are we campaigning for this specifically?
We have not stopped advocating for two yearly eye tests for middle-aged Australians since this change was announced in the 2014-15 Budget. Optometry Australia has met with the Health Minister, the Shadow Health Minister, Senator Nick Xenophon and made representations with the Greens Party to canvas support to increase access to eye exams for middle-aged Australians.
It’s now been 18 months since this policy change has been implemented and our members are increasingly concerned that patients aged 40-64 are having to wait too long to get their eyes tested. Medicare data shows that close to 150,000 less people in this age group are visiting their optometrist each year than did prior to 2015.
Why are two yearly tests for middle aged Australians so important?
The prevalence of most preventable or treatable eye conditions increases exponentially after the age of 40. Best practice, and empirical evidence demonstrates the need for regular eye health examinations for the prevention and early detection of eye diseases for people aged 40-64. Optometry Australia and numerous international optometric and ophthalmic bodies recommend at least biennial comprehensive eye health examinations for middle-aged patients, regardless of whether or not they are currently experiencing obvious symptoms of eye and vision problems.
Research shows the rate of undetected ocular disease at a population level can be significant, with many ocular diseases typically not showing any symptoms in the early stages of the condition, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and cataract. Increasing age, diabetes and never having had a previous eye examination are all predictors of undetected ocular disease. For further discussion of the evidence supporting the need for two yearly eye tests for those aged 40-64 years, see our statement on Preserving timely access to preventative eye care
Denying asymptomatic patients a Medicare rebate for regular two yearly eye health examinations, puts them at risk.
Talking to your MPs on a one to one level about the needs of their community whether that be by letter or face to face,is extremely powerful. Your MP wants to know the concerns of their constituents; they are there to represent you, they are your elected official.
It is important that the optometry profession stands up and let its voice be heard. We are a 5000 strong health profession and we provide over 8.2 million optometry services per year. We punch above our weight to ensure that Australians get the best primary eye care they need.
How can I join this campaign?
It simply takes 5 minutes. We are asking members to write a letter or email their local Federal Member of Parliament to tell them how this change has affected their patients in the past 18 months.
This is a grass roots campaign, if you can get your local MP to listen to your concerns, then they can take this up with their party leader, regardless of whether they are in Government or in opposition.
Lending your voice to the campaign will not take much of your time. It’s your chance to have your say and help advocate for improvements to optometry services. To make things easier, we’ve even included a sample letter/email to help.
If you do write to your MP, let us know by emailing Skye Cappuccio at email@example.com
Download the sample letter here