By Genevieve Quilty
The government released the fourth Intergenerational Report 2015 (IGR) in March. These reports are designed to project 40 years to demonstrate the challenges that must be managed from a population, economy and budgetary outlook.
The picture presented by the government showed that over the next 40 years, we will live longer, healthier lives, with a life expectancy higher than it has ever been.
The Treasurer talked about Australia being at a critical juncture of our history—encouraging a dialogue to act now in a number of key areas including increasing our nation’s productivity and participation in the workforce. The government is positioning our community to work well into the ‘traditional’ retirement time-frame—current policy is 67 years for most of us born after 1957.
The IGR and much of the government positioning on health reform talk about the increasing costs of keeping the population healthy. Without the reforms announced during the 2014-2015 budget, the IGR predicts spending on health per person is projected to more than double over the next 40 years, with the highest rate of spending through Medicare, which is projected to grow by over 15 per cent per person in real terms over the next decade.
What this report and government discussion about health spending fails to mention is that the investment in health, and particularly for our profession in Medicare, actually assists to increase productivity and participation in the workforce, the very elements the current Treasurer is so passionate about.
A population seeking early preventative eye health and vision care intervention, funded through Medicare, makes economic sense. Our current advocacy campaign, ‘Eye Care for All: Fairer and Smarter Medicare for Optometry’, hones in on this very argument.
Estimates suggest the economic cost per person over 40 years with vision loss is close to $30,000. At a national level, the total economic cost of vision loss has been estimated at more than $16.6 billion. Our request to government to at least pare back the cuts for disadvantaged patients is affordable to shore up access to eye care for all.
Your national president Kate Gifford and I met with the new health minister and presented this case directly to her in mid-March.
Please consider joining in the campaign. Check our campaign website on optometry.org.au.
I am looking forward to seeing many of you at the next CPD conference, AVC on the Gold Coast, to further this discussion.