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ACO ends bulk billing for non-concession patients

04/06/2019By Callum Glennen
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The Australian College of Optometry (ACO) has this week made changes to its bulk-billing policy, which will leave patients without concession paying $35 to $100 in out of pocket expenses.

As of June 3, patients without concessions will no longer have their consultation fee bulk-billed to Medicare. Instead, according to the ACO’s website, patients presenting to the general & ocular disease clinic now pay between $91.80 and $146.00 on the day for treatment, and will be $35.00 to $89.20 out of pocket after a Medicare claim has been reimbursed.

Patients at the children’s clinic will be charged a similar amount. Low vision clinic patients will pay $120.25 on the day, and be out of pocket $35 after Medicare reimbursement.

Ms Maureen O'Keefe, CEO of the ACO, told Insight that the change was made to keep up with the increasing costs of care.

Maureen O
Maureen O
“The ACO is introducing an out of pocket consultation fee for non-concession card holders who attend an ACO clinic, which recognises the time and increasing costs in the delivery of a quality service”
Maureen O'Keefe, ACO

“With a continuing strong focus on the provision of care to people experiencing disadvantage, we also provide an increasing number of services to the broader community, mostly resulting from referrals from other health care providers or from family and friends of our existing public health patients who attend the ACO to access the quality clinical services being offered,” O'Keefe said.

“To ensure that public funding for our programs remains directed at delivering and expanding programs focussed on accessibility and affordability for patients who are vulnerable and experiencing disadvantage, the ACO is introducing an out of pocket consultation fee (that includes diagnostic imaging) for non-concession card holders (Ie: non public health patients) who attend an ACO clinic, which recognises the time and increasing costs in the delivery of a quality service.”

Patients who are pensioner concession or health care cardholders, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, refugees or asylum seekers will still be eligible for bulk billed treatment.

O'Keefe said the ACO expects the change will have limited impact on patients attending the clinic. “As our focus remains on providing affordable eye care to people experiencing disadvantage and vulnerable communities and these patients will continue to be bulk billed, we anticipate that this will have minimal impact on the number of patients attending ACO clinics.”

“The response by staff to this change has been positive in recognition of the increasing cost of quality service provision and our ongoing focus of services on patients who are vulnerable and experiencing disadvantage.”

 

More reading:

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