Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey (L) with Lane Cove mayor Scott Bennison
Optometrists have seven months to reconsider their billing structure following an announcement in the Federal Budget that the Medicare fee cap will be removed.
If the Budget is passed through Parliament, optometrists will be able to set their own fees from 1 January 2015.
The unprecedented decision to remove the fee cap comes after months of Optometrists Association lobbying the government on behalf of members, with a strong groundswell of support. Member advocacy has also been an integral part of the association’s campaign to lift the Medicare fee cap.
National CEO Genevieve Quilty said removing the fee cap would allow flexibility for optometrists to compensate for potential losses flagged by other Budget cuts to the profession and to charge a fair fee commensurate with the services they provide.
‘We have been advocating for this change for more than two years, during which time optometrists have been practising with one hand tied behind their back,’ Ms Quilty said.
Optometry is the only health profession in Medicare to be weighed down with a cap on the fees that patients can be charged.
‘It makes it increasingly challenging for optometrists to provide full scope eye-care services while maintaining a financially viable clinical practice,’ Ms Quilty said.
The association will be supporting members with a suite of resources to support them in considering opportunities to access fair fees for their services, which have been provided by the removal of the fee cap. The association will also be conducting an on-going analysis of the impact of this decision, including the ratio of practitioners who bulk-bill to those who do not.