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Source: ‘Medicare statistics’ by Services Australia Graphic analysis by Optometry Australia

By Helen Carter


Medicare consultations with optometrists dropped 8.2 per cent in 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, but 9.2 million services were still delivered, a new analysis by Optometry Australia reveals.

Despite lockdowns, reduced opening hours and restrictions on practising due to COVID-19, Australia’s optometrists performed admirably to continue to provide eye care to the nation in difficult circumstances.

Analysis of the Optometric Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) statistics for the 2020 calendar year by Optometry Australia’s Policy and Standards Adviser Kerryn Hart revealed the following key figures:

  • 9,286,000 MBS optometrical services were delivered, which was 839,281 fewer consultations than the record 10,125,281 million consultations in 2019
  • The total jumped to 9,287,055 if adding 1,055 telehealth services
  • There were drops in all consultations overall plus initials, subsequents, perimetry, contact lens, childrens’ and low vision consultations. And domiciliary consultations dropped by two-thirds.
  • The only provision of services to increase were foreign body removal and telehealth items
  • $446,068,006 was paid in benefits
  • There were 35,877 services per 100,000 population
  • $1,723,412 was paid in benefits per 100,000 population


Source: ‘Medicare statistics’ by Services Australia Graphic analysis by Optometry Australia

All states and territories experienced a reduction in services with Victoria recording the largest drop due to its second COVID-19 lockdown. All are now bouncing back.

Nearly one-third of patients now over 65

Females continued to be more frequent users than males in all age groups and bulk billing rates remained high across all states and territories.

The most popular item number was 10918, second or subsequent consultations. Optometrists billed for this item just over two million times, comprising one-fifth of all optometrical MBS services in 2020.

Ten other item numbers, grouped together because they are all a form of ‘initial’ consultations, made up 70 per cent of items claimed. They were item numbers 10900, 10905, 10907, comprehensive initial consultation item numbers 10910 (1.8 million services) and 10911 (1.2 million services,) 10912, 10913, 10914 (first attendance of more than 15 minutes for progressive disorder excluding presbyopia requiring comprehensive reassessment, 1.07 million services,) 10915 and 10916.

 Source:  ‘Medicare statistics’ by Services Australia Graphic analysis by Optometry Australia. Figures are for Australia


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In the spirit of reconciliation Optometry Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.