By Rhiannon Riches
ICU Optometry, formerly known as Julie Newport Optometrist, in the Brisbane suburb of Bardon, does not bulk-bill. It stopped late last century.
Ms Newport, who opened the practice in 1993 and changed its name in 2000, is a partner in the practice. The practice has two partner optometrists, and a dispensing practice manager, who is also a partner.
Ms Newport says several factors drove their decision but primarily they didn’t like the fact that they were accepting 85 per cent of the full fee.
‘We felt we were offering a full service and we wanted to differentiate ourselves as a practice that focused on quality rather than the perception of speed and volume that seems to accompany the mind-set of many towards bulk-billing practices,’ Ms Newport said.
The practice changed to having patients pay for their consultations at the time of the consultation but continued bulk-billing patients with concession cards.
‘We set fees at the maximum we could before the Medicare cap was removed. After the cap was removed, we raised them all to a mark that we thought was more commensurate with the time and trouble we take for our patients,’ she said.
Ms Newport says their existing and new patients do not seem concerned on learning that the practice no longer bulk-bills. Her advice for optometrists is: ‘Start charging what you’re worth, you’ll never look back.’