By Kate Gifford
Optometry Australia National President
Some of the most important activity of Optometry Australia happens almost unseen in the meeting rooms of Canberra. This is where the nuts and bolts of how we practise optometry every day is protected and promoted by your organisation.
CEO Genevieve Quilty, clinical policy advisor and optometrist Simon Hanna and I met in June with the Optometric Benefits Consultative Committee, at the Commonwealth Department of Health in Canberra.
At these meetings we seek clarification of and improvements to our Medicare Benefits Schedule to ensure it reflects contemporary best practice. Our new tele-health and corneal foreign body items were discussed, along with improvements to wording of the contact lens item codes, which currently require supply to occur before item code billing and which is outdated in the environment of online contact lens sales.
We are seeking an expansion of item 10905 to include referral from medical practitioners, and improvement to the descriptor for the 10912 and 10913 codes. Both require more work but I am eagerly anticipating having good news for you by the end of the year.
The OBCC cannot commit to any additional Medicare expenditure but we updated key bureaucrats on the effect of the 2015 cuts, including Optometry Australia’s recent survey results measuring the impact in our practices. Optometry Australia will repeat this survey throughout the year to gather evidence of patient access concerns as the Health Minister has requested of us.
There is no doubt that our small profession punches above its weight when it comes to advocacy in Canberra, due to the tireless work of our policy experts in the national office and work on the ground from all seven of our organisations.
As I have written before, our advocacy footprint is exponentially leveraged through your participation.
Many of you wrote to and visited your local MPs in the period leading up to the May Federal Budget, and now we need your and your patients’ signatures on our national petition entitled ‘Stop the cuts to Medicare for optometry’.
The five per cent cut and indexation freeze until mid-2018 compound to result in $10 less paid on the average patient rebate in 2018 compared to 2014.
Download and print the petition on the Optometry Australia website www.optometry.org.au. Our advocacy success really does depend on all of us as a collective. I thank you for supporting your profession.