The 2014 Budget made significant changes to how optometrists can subsidise by the government in Australia. As a result both our Adelaide and Woodville practices have altered how we bill our consultations so that we may continue to provide our patients with the best eye care, vision and access to technology in the future.
Since 1975, many optometric clinical services have been included in the Medicare Schedule. This means that when visiting your local optometrist as a patient, you have received a contribution from the government towards the cost of your appointment. The rebate amount has always only been 85% of the value that the government suggests is an appropriate full fee for the consultation.
Recently in the 2014 Budget, the government announced significant changes to the Medicare rebates for optometry services, even though these went largely unnoticed in the media. These included a cut of almost five per cent in the rebate you receive and a freezing of the Medicare rebate until 2018, more than three years away. This means the rebate will remain unchanged while costs of providing care continue to rise. The changes come on top of many years of inadequate indexing of the rebate, which means the rebate hasn’t increased in line with costs. The government rebate is continuing to fall further behind the true cost of providing quality eye care.
The other change made is a removal of the Medicare fee-cap for optometry services. Prior to 1st January 2015 optometrists were unable to charge for their professional services beyond the scheduled fee, unlike all other health professions. Now optometrists may set their own fees for clinical services under Medicare. This means that, in line with other healthcare providers, optometrists can charge above the Medicare scheduled fee without impacting the patient’s ability to claim the Medicare rebate.
Consultation fees will now be standardised, rather than varying in line with the Medicare rebate as they have in the past. The frequency and quality of your eye care should not be dictated by government budgets and therefore we believe this is a positive move to allow our patients the best service when they need it. The majority of consultation items will include a proportion covered by the medicare rebate although this amount will vary from $28.45 - $85.25 depending on your eligibility. Details of these fees can be found here.
We continue to use the Easyclaim system to claim your Medicare rebate for you on the spot. This is then paid back onto your cheque or savings card. Your Medicare rebate will unfortunately reduce compared to the level it was prior to 2015.
We are still pleased to be able to bulk-bill health care and pension card holders. For children we now are able to provide consultation services at 15% off the normal price.
The costs of the additional equipment such as retinal photography and anterior imaging, corneal topography and OCT scans has never been covered by Medicare and unfortunately this has not changed. Because we believe this technology is very important in providing quality eye care, we continue to offer this technology at 50% off for health card and pension card holders as well as children to enable access.