By Kate Gifford
In the lead up to the next Federal Budget, it’s time to exert your individual influence on health policy with the support of Optometry Australia. In the 2014-2015 budget, the Australian Government pulled out from optometry $90 million of Medicare funding over four years.
Genevieve and I met in March with the Federal Health Minister, Sussan Ley, and numerous other MPs, to extend our message of ‘Eye Care for All: Fairer and Smarter Medicare for Optometry’.
Optometry Australia’s budget submission for 2015-2016 includes eight proposals—six to ensure equitable access under Medicare for disadvantaged and rural patients, and two to improve access for Indigenous Australians. Our success depends on all of us encouraging our local MPs to have a future focused view of preventative primary eye care.
Can you find 15 minutes to spare this week? If so, please login to the Optometry Australia website and download a template letter to send to your local MP. Optometry Australia will support you with strong evidence-based communication tools.
We have just launched our National Eye Health Heat Maps, which provide a visual representation of ‘hot spots’ where decreased Medicare funding puts community health outcomes at risk.
Based on key clinical and demographic indicators, the Heat Maps will be drilled down to electorates and Optometry Australia will write to parliamentarians, using this specific data.
The important message is that investing in optometry is a drop in the ocean compared to the $16.6 billion economic cost of vision loss, which is forecast to increase nearly 150 per cent by 2020. Optometry Australia is also working with key health journalists to support us in our advocacy.
For every person over 40 years with vision loss, the economic cost is $29,000. Sixty per cent of these people have uncorrected refractive error. How much does an eye examination cost the government?
We all have the individual stories of our patients whose lives have been changed through simple access to spectacles or contact lenses, let alone timely diagnosis and treatment for potentially sight-threatening conditions like keratitis, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Go out and tell those stories.