Representatives of Optometry Australia joined the Department of Health and representatives of Medicare at a recent meeting of the Optometric Benefits Consultative Committee. Discussion focused on four key areas.
They were the implementation plans for the changes to MBS coverage of optometry items announced in the Federal Budget, progress in consideration of Optometry Australia’s proposals to strengthen domiciliary loading items, amending item 10905 to also cover referrals from medical doctors, and making clear that optometrists can bill contact lens items once a prescription has been finalised regardless of whether lenses are then purchased from the practice.
Simon Hanna, Optometry Australia’s clinical policy adviser, is actively participating in a subcommittee supporting the review of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ optical appliance schedule. Disappointingly, the review has a limited focus and will not review fees. Optometry Australia continues to advocate for an accompanying review of fees.
We also continue to seek information regarding the flow-on effect of reducing Medicare fees as a mechanism for introducing Budget measures announced in May 2014. Optometry Australia has strongly argued to the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs and senior bureaucrats that DVA schedule fees should in no way be reduced, and that to do so would be likely to compromise veterans’ access to care in some areas. No further information is available.
Optometry Australia has made a submission to the Senate Select Committee Inquiry to health, established at the bequest of the Greens in response to the Abbott Government’s policies on and cuts to health and health workforce programs. Our submission addressed opportunities to support better eye-care access for elder Australians and Indigenous Australians, and canvassed the expected negative outcomes from reducing the Medicare rebate and frequency of access to the 10900 equivalent item.
We have made another submission, this time to the Skilled Occupations List, which lists professions considered to be in demand in Australia to support migration of people with those professional skills. We have drawn on evidence from the supply and demand projections study undertaken by Monash University for Optometry Australia, to argue why optometry should not be included on the list.