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Thursday / May 26.
HomeminewsOlder Australians Risk Being Locked Out of eye Care

Older Australians Risk Being Locked Out of eye Care

Twenty one per cent of Australians earn less than AU$600 per week and are at risk of being locked out from eye health services unless the Australian Federal Government applies exemptions from the Medicare rebate reduction. Optometry Australia, has called on the Australian Government to increase investment in Medicare-funded optometry to make access to optometry fair for all Australians.1

It is an issue that could impact the management of glaucoma, says Geoff Pollard, CEO of Glaucoma Australia. Mr. Pollard said

“Glaucoma Australia supports all efforts to facilitate access to affordable eye care by all, including the most vulnerable in our society.

“The incidence of glaucoma rises with advancing age; the importance of detecting age-based chronic conditions has been acknowledged through general practice rebate reduction exemptions. It is reasonable to expect the same exemptions to apply for visits to eye care providers,” said Mr. Pollard.

“Providing equitable access to eye care for pensioners, concession card holders and agedcare residents is important to help encourage all Australians to undertake regular and comprehensive eye checks as the best defence against progressive glaucoma-related low vision and possible blindness,” he added.

Kate Gifford, President of Optometry Australia, said Australia is at a critical juncture for eye care. “The cuts made to Medicare rebates for optometry consults in the 2014–2015 Budget are creating more barriers to access for those already at a disadvantage.

The gap is increasing between the cost to provide optometric patient care and the contribution the Government is prepared to make for that care.

“For older Australians and those on low incomes, this situation threatens to lock them out of accessing eye care as many wont be in the position to afford an out-of-pocket expense. And with continually reducing rebates, many optometrists simply can’t bulk-bill these patients while maintaining a viable practice.

“We are calling on the Australian Government to apply to optometry the same patient exemptions from the Medicare rebate reduction as are intended for general practice, to ensure that all patients are afforded equitable opportunity to access optometric care,” said Ms. Gifford.

In its submission to the Federal Budget 2015–2016: Making eye care accessible for all Australians, Optometry Australia has called for action to remove barriers currently being faced by vulnerable members of the community who may be deterred from seeking critical eye checks, following the Government’s reduction to the patient rebate for optometric care.

Optometry Australia has urged the Australian Government to immediately implement:

  • Exemptions from the Medicare rebate cut for optometric consultations for pensioners, concession card holders, children and agedcare residents; and
  • Annual and fair indexation of optometry items on the Medicare schedule; and
  • The prioritisation of solutions to overcome long-standing access issues for Australians living in rural or remote areas, in aged care an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Australians.

“Optometry Australia believes that the Government is putting access to eye care at serious risk and strongly recommends that the 2015-2016 Budget includes complementary policy measures that will ensure primary eye care continues to be sustainable and accessible for all Australians,” concluded Ms. Gifford.

Reference

1. http://profi le.id.com.au/australia/household-income

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