MP Anna Burke
By Patrick Hutchens
Labor MP Anna Burke will champion a grassroots petition launched by Optometry Australia that calls for fairer Medicare rebates for optometry services.
Ms Burke, who is a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, has shown support for the eye health sector and will table the petition in parliament in October.
The petition calls for a reversal of the five per cent cut to optometry items listed on the Medicare Benefits Schedule and a lifting of the freeze on indexation for these items.
Optometrists across Australia have been collecting signatures from their patients for the petition in recent months.
More than 70 practices have contacted Optometry Australia to confirm that they have been collecting signatures. Many more are expected to be revealed to have been participating when petition sheets are submitted.
Complementing the tabling of the petition on 19 October, Optometry Australia is facilitating meetings between optometrists and Federal MPs from all states and territories, to be held at Parliament House on the same day.
It is hoped that these face-to-face advocacy meetings with policymakers will provide an opportunity for optometrists to relay the predicaments that many optometrists face with rising practice costs.
Optometrists will provide MPs with anecdotal evidence of how reduced government investment in Medicare for optometry has been affecting low-income patients and how it will impact patient access to optometry services in the long term.
Optometry Australia national president Kate Gifford said the situation was becoming untenable for many optometrists and their patients.
‘By presenting this petition to parliament, we are pressing MPs from all political persuasions to help ensure that optometry services are able to be accessed by all members of the Australian community now and into the future,’ Ms Gifford said.
‘We are calling on the government to urgently introduce the two key changes that optometrists and their patients have supported in this petition,’ she said.
In the coming weeks and months, Optometry Australia plans to continue lobbying individual members of parliament who have an interest in small business, Indigenous health and ageing, to call for fairer and more equitable access to optometry.
Optometrists who have been participating in the petition campaign are encouraged to post their petition signatures to Optometry Australia for delivery by 24 September.
These should be addressed to: Petition Co-ordinator, Optometry Australia, 204 Drummond Street, Carlton VIC 3053.
Eye Care For All Petition information can be found here.