By Rhiannon Riches
Affordable, timely access to primary eye care for all Australians can be realised with an investment of $20 million in 2018-2019, Optometry Australia’s submission to the Federal Budget states.
Optometry Australia is calling on the Australian Government to deliver $20 million across three key areas: affordable access for all Australians, timely access for middle-aged Australians, and preserving access for veterans.
To ensure affordable access to primary eye care for all Australians, Optometry Australia recommends an investment of $9 million to end the freeze on Medicare rebates for optometry and reinstate annual indexation of the MBS from 1 July 2018 to fairly reflect the increasing cost of providing optometric clinical care.
To support timely eye care for middle-aged Australians, Optometry Australia calls on the government to reinstate biennial Medicare rebates for a comprehensive initial examination for Australians aged between 40 and 64 years, at a cost of $10 million annually. Given the increased risks in middle-age of developing ocular disease, most of which are effectively managed with early detection, timely access is an essential element in reducing the heavy social and economic costs associated with preventable vision loss.
To preserve eye care access for the nation’s veterans, Optometry Australia recommends the government increase payments to 115 per cent of the current rebates for all optometry services for veterans and reinstate annual indexation. At a cost of $1 million in 2018-2019, the investment would ensure sustainable quality eye care to veterans within a framework that supports their choice of provider.