By Skye Cappuccio
Optometry Australia’s campaign for fairer Medicare rebates to help ensure access to eye care for all Australians has been ramping up.
Eye Care for All
Optometry Australia’s campaign for fairer Medicare rebates to help ensure access to eye care for all Australians has been ramping up. Across the country members continue to write to their federal parliamentary representatives to ensure they recognise the need for fairer rebates to ensure all Australians can access the eye care they need. A number of members have met personally with their MP to further these discussions.
In Tasmania, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has publicly joined Optometry Tasmania in calling for the rebate cut for optometry consultations to be reversed, generating local media that drew significant attention to the issue.
In the lead up to the Federal Budget 2015-2016 announcement, Optometry Australia is calling on all members to help keep the pressure on the Australian Government to reverse the rebate cut. Visit our campaign website for more information.
Optometry Australia, in partnership with the Australian National University, has developed the National Eye Health Heat Map to demonstrate relative eye health need across Australia.
The Heat Map, launched in April, is already proving to be a powerful advocacy tool. Members meeting with their Federal MPs to stress the need for fairer Medicare rebates have used the map to focus on the relative needs of their community, and Optometry Australia is sharing electorate-specific maps with Federal MPs across the country to garner their support to reinstate fairer rebates in the interests of their communities.
Optometry Australia can develop these maps to support members’ advocacy efforts. Members can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The concept of direct billing, where a practitioner would be able to directly accept the Medicare rebate for a consultation and charge a patient an additional private fee, has been receiving increasing attention lately and is mooted as an option that may be introduced for GPs.
Optometry Australia has again stressed to the Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, and senior members of her department the need to ensure that any move to introduce direct billing is extended to include optometry.
We are working with members to ensure decision-makers understand the benefits that direct billing can bring to optometric practices and their patients. Given the Medicare rebate reduction and extended freeze on Medicare indexation, direct billing could provide an opportunity to support affordable patient access and sustainable practices.
We have discussed this matter with the AMA to ensure other professional associations understand the need for this matter to be urgently implemented.
Optometry Australia represented the profession at a meeting of AHPRA’s Professions Reference Group in mid-April. The meeting included updates from AHPRA on the review of the National Scheme and expected new registration standards regarding English language and professional indemnity requirements.
Optometry Australia continues to advocate to ensure that any response to the review of the National Scheme does not see optometry included in any move to amalgamate the professional boards of smaller professions.
We also want to ensure that professional indemnity standards require sufficient and optometry-relevant cover for practitioners throughout their professional career, and for any claims that may arise during their retirement.
We will keep members up to date on the expected impact of any changes to the registration scheme or to registration standards.
Indigenous eye health
Through Vision 2020 Australia, we have worked with other stakeholder groups to provide the Australian Government with a joint funding proposal for activity necessary to improve equity in eye health and vision care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
This has included a call for additional funding to strengthen and extend the Visiting Optometrists Scheme and support co-ordination of care at a community level, and also stressed the necessity of providing fairer Medicare rebates for optometric services to ensure the sustainability of service provision to Indigenous people.
A meeting with Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash to further discuss the proposal is planned.
Optometry Australia continues to advocate for relatively minor amendments to the Medicare schedule for optometry, which can make a big difference for optometrists and their patients.
We have provided additional details to the Department of Health, supporting our call to amend item 10905 to support consultations referred by other optometrists and by medical practitioners, and have provided Health Minister Ley’s office with further details of our request for improved domiciliary loading items, following discussion with the minister on the issue in March.