News that the Turnbull Government is considering reviewing the Medicare rebate freeze ahead of the May Budget has been welcomed by Andrew Hogan, President of Optometry Australia.
Mr. Hogan said optometrists were encouraged by the strongest indication yet that the government may lift the freeze, which has affected optometrists as well as the country’s general practitioners.
Additionally he said it was “Optometry Australia’s expectation that any move to lift the freeze on Medicare rebates would also extend to optometry.
“Optometry rebates were last indexed in 2012 and optometry was further affected by the freeze introduced across the MBS in 2014, coupled by an across the board cut to the MBS rebate for all optometry services in 2015.”
Today, more than 12 million Australians experience eye health or vision problems
Optometry Australia estimates that Government investment in primary eye health through Medicare has decreased around AU$103 million since 2015.
“This has increased the pressure on optometrists providing services to millions of Australians annually at a time when the cost of providing comprehensive care, including investing in important new technologies, continues to rise,” said Mr. Hogan.
Optometry Australia is seeking an urgent meeting with the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, to ensure he is fully apprised of the impact of this freeze on Australia’s optometrists and their patients.
The economic cost of vision loss in Australia is almost $1.4 billion a month.
“Optometry Australia believes that this burden on the Australian economy could be significantly reduced through a greater commitment by the Government to primary eye care in the community.
“Today, more than 12 million Australians experience eye health or vision problems, with some sections of our population more vulnerable, including those who need bulk-billed services or have higher care needs.”
“Lifting the freeze on indexation would signal that the Government recognises the importance of preventative eye health care, and we look forward to an opportunity of discussing this with Mr. Hunt in the lead up to the Federal budget,” Mr. Hogan said.