By Christopher Poulter
Policy and Advocacy Advisor
The ‘Stop the cuts to Medicare for optometry’ petition continues to gain momentum with optometric practices across Australia collecting signatures from supportive patients. We are asking all members to be actively involved by downloading the petition from the Optometry Australia website and promoting the petition to patients.
If you are collecting signatures, remember to let us know by dropping us an email at email@example.com. We are also sourcing a federal MP to champion the petition in parliament on our behalf in October.
MBS review, audit
As part of the government’s approach to reviewing the MBS, announced earlier this year to reduce unnecessary servicing and seek efficiencies under Medicare, Optometry Australia was invited to participate in an MBS Review Stakeholder Forum in Canberra in early July.
Genevieve Quilty and professional services manager Luke Arundel represented Optometry Australia, and provided input into the proposed key priorities and scope of the review. Similar stakeholder forums were held in Adelaide and Perth.
A broader consultation process is expected to follow with Terms of Reference to be released and a call for stakeholder submissions expected soon. Optometry Australia will be a strong contributor to these important reviews.
The transition from the commonwealth to jurisdictional fund-holders for the Visiting Optometrists Scheme occurred officially on 1 July 2015. Jurisdictional fund-holders aim to support better co-ordination and flexibility between VOS and visiting specialist services and to ensure targeted service provision.
Contact details for the fund-holder organisation in each jurisdiction can be found by contacting your local Optometry Australia office or on the Department of Health website.
Optometry Australia will continue to provide advice and support as required to the Department of Health and jurisdictional fund-holder organisations to ensure the continuity of optometric services during this transition phase.
We promoted the work of Optometry Australia at ODMA 2015 in Brisbane in July. In addition to mounting a display stand at the fair, staff members engaged with optometrists, ophthalmic suppliers, and the wider eye health and vision care community. It was an excellent opportunity to discuss Optometry Australia’s efforts to reverse the Medicare cuts and people willingly signed our petition. Many enquired with keen interest about our activities.
My Health Record
Optometry Australia attended a briefing conducted by the Commonwealth Department of Health on the proposed changes to e-health legislation, as part of a broader strategy to reinvigorate the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record, now called ‘My Health Record’.
The proposed legislative changes aim to make it easier for patients and health-care providers to participate in e-health by reducing unnecessary bureaucracy.
The government also intends to trial the rebranded My Health Record as an opt-out system for patients but not health-care providers, beginning in September 2015. The trial sites are yet to be determined and Optometry Australia continues to lobby the government to provide greater support for optometrists to participate in e-health.
We continue to have discussions with the Department of Health following correspondence received from the Health Minister in response to our call for commonwealth support to improve access to prescription glasses for Indigenous Australians.
The department has advised that it is exploring options for how it may be able to support best practice across jurisdictional spectacle schemes to facilitate better access for Indigenous Australians.
We provided a submission in response to the Senate Select Committee on Health inquiry into best practice of chronic disease prevention and management in primary health care. It highlighted the vital role optometrists play in the prevention and early detection of patients with chronic eye and vision conditions, and opportunities to better integrate optometry across the continuum of care.