By Ashleigh McMillan
South Australia’s Department for Communities and Social Inclusion has launched GlassesSA, a fully-online scheme which provides disadvantaged residents with low-cost glasses.
The updated scheme replaced the South Australian Spectacles Scheme (SASS) on 18 October.
Optometry South Australia CEO Libby Boschen says the updated scheme supports the most vulnerable members of our community, while taking the administrative burden away from optometrists.
‘The target group for GlassesSA is much more focused, so it will only be for members of the community who are absolutely not in the position to afford the various discount schemes that many practices provide,’ Ms Boschen said.
‘When identifying who was eligible for SASS, it was very hard to do because patients presented a variety of different cards. Under the new system they basically have to produce a statement of their income, which is provided by the DSCI, making it very simple.
‘A key issue that was identified by a member focus group and prevented them from participating in SASS was the administrative burden. That’s been eliminated by having a real-time, online system.
‘It used to be very slow for optometrists to get their rebates and their payment back. Optometrists now lodge the application straight after the appointment, they know the patient is eligible and the money is deposited within a couple of days into their bank account, so that is a really good plus,’ she said.
Eligible GlassesSA patients will pay a minimum of $20 towards the cost of the glasses, with the co-contribution going to the optometrist as part-payment for the spectacles. The patient contribution may be higher depending on the type of lenses.
To receive glasses under the scheme, permanent residents of SA must receive a full Centrelink pension or receive the full Newstart Allowance. Residents younger than 18 years who are dependent on eligible people may also qualify.
Ms Boschen says that Optometry SA participated in 18 months of discussion and collaboration with the DSCI after lodging a proposal outlining necessary changes and recommending that SASS costings be in line with DVA reimbursement.
‘It’s a step in the right direction. A lot of our members told us in the original review that if the administration was easy, they would be less worried about the prices. The outstanding issue is that the prices still need to be higher than they are to adequately reflect the real cost of doing business.
‘We’ve lobbied really hard on this point but the existing carry-over budget just won’t allow it at this time. The DSCI team has been very supportive and understanding, committing to a review in 12 months once we have feedback from members on the scheme they have developed,’ Ms Boschen said.
‘One of the good things about GlassesSA claiming being all online is that we will be able to get data. The department and Optometry South Australia are hoping that we’ll be able to collect statistics during the year which will put us all in a better bargaining position, because what the community needs and the value optometry is contributing to subsidising the scheme in South Australia will be made clearer.
‘I encourage members to look closely at whether they could afford to provide this service for members of the community who absolutely cannot afford the best discount that the practice can offer because they’re struggling to get food on the table,’ she said.
For information, go to the GlassesSA website.