The Department of Health has confirmed that it intends to effect the reduction in the rebate for optometry items by recosting all items and retaining the rebate at 85 per cent, and not by reducing the rebate of the current fees by five per cent to 80 per cent. The outcome in terms of the rebate patients receive will be the same.
Optometry Australia CEO Genevieve Quilty says the advice was conveyed at a meeting with department officials last week. She says the decision was made because reducing the fees is quicker and simpler than changing the rebate amount that is detailed in the primary legislation. It also means that if the optometry profession succeeds in its bid to have the decision reversed at some point, it will be easier to effect the reversal.
The department has also confirmed that it intends to implement the change in frequency with which patients can access an item 10900 by replacing item 10900 with two new items, one providing annual access for patients 65 years or older and one claimable every three years for patients younger than 65 years.
Optometry Australia has begun conversations with major practice software providers to help ensure they can incorporate these changes.
The department and the Minister’s Office have confirmed that they believe they are on track to have the fee cap removed effective from 1 January. This will be undertaken in a way that does not require optometrists to re-sign Medicare agreements. For further information see our website.