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Fee cap removed

MAY 2014: Through the Federal Budget the government announced that the cap on fees that can be charged under Medicare will be removed, allowing optometrists the ability to set their own fees from 1 January 2015.

NOW: It is expected that this measure will come into effect on 1 January 2015 as planned.

Rebate reduced

MAY 2014: The Australian Government announced that the MBS rebate will reduce for optometry services from 85 per cent to 80 per cent from 1 January 2015.

NOW: It is expected that rather than reducing the rebate amount, the government will retain the 85 per cent rebate but recost the full scheduled fee to achieve the same fiscal outcome. The change is expected to come into effect from the scheduled date.

Comprehensive exam

MAY 2014: The government announced that the frequency with which comprehensive eye examinations could be accessed under Medicare would extend from two years to three years for ‘asymptomatic’ people aged younger than 65 years, and reduce from two years to one year for ‘asymptomatic’ patients aged 65 years and older.

NOW: The government has confirmed that this change is expected to be applied by replacing the current item 10900 with two new items, one claimable annually for patients 65 years and older, and another that can be claimed only every three years, for patients younger than 65 years.

This change is expected to come into effect on 1 January 2015. From this date, it is expected that the new items will not be able to be claimed within one or three years, depending on age, from when a patient last claimed for an item 10900.

Indexation freeze

The government announced a further two-year freeze on MBS indexation for many elements of the MBS, including the optometric schedule. This meant that fees were not indexed as they were due to be from 1 July 2014 and will not now be indexed until 1 July 2016.

Help to get prepared

Optometry Australia is updating members on progress towards implementation of these measures and has released a suite of resources to support members considering how these changes may impact on their billing practices and recall and reminder systems.

These resources include a fee calculator, practical tips on changing billing practices, practical tips on effective patient reminder systems and case studies from optometrists who have changed their billing approaches to positive effect. Visit www.optometry.org.au.

MBS changes are also expected to require minor adaptions in practice software. Optometry Australia has begun discussions with software providers to support timely adaptions.

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