By Skye Cappuccio
National Policy Manager
Following our meeting with Senator Rachel Siewert, the Senator questioned the Department of Health in two separate Senate Estimates hearings regarding its decision to reduce the rebate and freeze indexation and its evaluation of the impact of this on patient access to eye care.
This is a useful way of drawing further attention to the impact that reduced rebates are having on eye-care access.
Also following our meeting with Queensland MP Dr Andrew Laming, senior officials within Medicare have been looking into what can be done to address issues created by the inflexible application of paperwork rules to the processing of paper-based forms used in providing outreach services.
We are following up other specific opportunities that were highlighted through these meetings, and providing follow-up communications to all Senators and MPs with whom we met.
Our next focus will be to reflect on the clear message received through many of these meetings around the need for a compromise position or alternative push for greater funding to support service delivery to the most vulnerable populations.
This will inform the next phase of our campaign for better access to eye care and a sustainable optometry sector.
Optometry Australia representatives participated in a consultation workshop with other professional bodies, providing advice and feedback to the Medicare Benefits Review Taskforce regarding the processes and focus of the review.
We also made a comprehensive submission to the written consultation process, emphasising the benefits of MBS listing of current items and opportunities to strengthen the MBS for optometry and its alignment with contemporary best practice.
It is understood that a clinical committee is being formed, predominantly but not exclusively comprising optometrists, to guide the more detailed examination to be undertaken in 2016 of optometry MBS items.
We have been proactive in recommending that the committee has a depth of relevant experience.
Optometry Australia will make a submission to the Optometry Board of Australia’s consultation regarding revised guidelines for continuing professional development for endorsed and non-endorsed optometrists, and for the prescription of optical appliances.
We will be advising the OBA on some logistical issues encountered in administering the CPD accreditation contract and advising that we do not feel that any significant change to approved provider arrangements is required.
We will offer general support for the revised guidelines on optical appliances but will note that it is unrealistic to expect prescribing optometrists to always have knowledge of warranties and similar details on products that may be dispensed from the prescription.
Minister Ley has announced an inquiry into the value of public health insurance for consumers and its sustainability. We understand that the inquiry will centre on consultations with consumers and key stakeholders.
In mid-November, Optometry Australia representatives participated in a consultation workshop alongside other peak professional bodies, stressing the value of health insurance in supporting patient access to optical aids, but also opportunities to enhance the way health insurance is offered to consumers to optimise value relating to eye health and optical appliances.
Optometry Australia is pleased to have had a representative, Simon Hanna, appointed to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA’s) Health Consultative Forum, a newly established forum to provide ongoing advice to the department on DVA health services.
The forum’s work program is being progressed through a number of project groups, through which Optometry Australia will advise on item number rules and facilitation that are effective and appropriate for cross-professional referral.
Optometry Australia will provide advice in consultation with a small advisory group of members who regularly provide DVA services.
Genevieve Quilty has met with a senior official involved in determining responses to the review of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.
The review was conducted to better understand opportunities to influence the way the Health Ministers’ Advisory Council responds to the recommendation to amalgamate many of the professional boards into one super board.
Optometry Australia has previously ensured that the arguments for maintaining a dedicated optometry board have been understood within all state governments and by commonwealth decision-makers, and has been co-ordinating a joint response from the professions affected. Health Ministers will consider the issue again when they meet in April 2016.
After a productive meeting last month with Department of Health officials, Optometry Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Working Group is developing further advice for the department on optimal standards for subsidised spectacle schemes to meet the needs of Indigenous Australians.
This work, being undertaken in partnership with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, will hopefully inform commonwealth activity to facilitate the further development of schemes co-ordinated through the jurisdictions.