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Optometry Australia’s 2024-25 budget focus

Optometry Australia budget

 

Optometry Australia (OA) has lodged its pre-budget submission for the 2024-25 Federal Budget which outlines a pathway to accessible and affordable eyecare involving investments in collaborative models of eyecare, tele-optometry consultations and campaigns to raise awareness of the myopia epidemic.

With vision loss said to cost the Australian economy $27.6 billion annually, the submission focuses on practical, low-cost initiatives that address structural and systemic issues which impact the ability of optometrists to deliver eyecare services to disadvantaged Australians. This included older Australians, people with chronic diseases, those living in rural and remote communities, and First Nations peoples.

Skye Cappuccio. Image: Optometry Australia.

“In many geographic locations and disadvantaged communities, patients wait inordinate lengths of time or go without treatment altogether. Without substantive action, this problem will only worsen,” the submission said.

OA cites overstretched public hospitals, long wait times for elective surgery and outpatient appointments, significant out-of-pocket costs, specialist workforce shortages particularly in regional and rural areas, and ineffective patient pathways as contributing factors to many Australians not being diagnosed or treated in a timely manner.

In 2023, RANZCO, Optometry Australia and Orthoptics Australia jointly announced a cross-discipline collaborative eyecare working group to enhance patient access, reduce wait lists and wait times, and lower health system costs.

“Together, we will support the development and implementation of collaborative models of eyecare that enhance both individual patient access to much needed services and the overall effectiveness of the eye health system,” the submission said.

“The crucial next step is to resource the next phase of collaborative eyecare in a way that builds on these successful projects.”

Optometry Australia CEO Ms Skye Cappuccio said that with an ageing population and the increased prevalence of chronic eye conditions, there is a need to maximise opportunities to increase the contribution of optometry and optometrists in the health system.

Table 1. Proposed budget measures and cost

“Optometry Australia’s 2024-25 Pre-Budget Submission focuses on three overarching areas of strategic importance to patients and the future of the profession,” she said.

The focus of the budget submission is as follows:

1. Adjustments to optometrists’ remuneration under Medicare, through a review of optometric scheduled fees that have not kept up with inflation, along with the fast- tracked establishment of telehealth items for brief and comprehensive tele- optometry consultations, and asynchronous tele-ophthalmology consultations. Estimates drawn from comprehensive analysis of practice costs indicate that the actual cost of providing a comprehensive consultation is over $30 more than the Medicare scheduled fee.

2. Investment to embed innovative, collaborative models of eyecare in the health system, enabling optometrists to practise in a multidisciplinary treatment environment, underpinned by shared data and enhanced use of digital technologies. OA said the benefits of collaborative eyecare had been clearly demonstrated and align with the Strengthening Medicare Reforms and the Mid-Term Review of the National Health Reform Agreements.

3. Funding for targeted initiatives to deliver benefits in areas of need. These include:

• Increasing the optometric domiciliary loading to $85.00 per visit (paid
proportionally for multiple patients) to ensure the ongoing provision of
timely and affordable access to eye care for elderly Australians in aged care.

• Increasing investment in the Visiting Optometrists Scheme (VOS) to support
the delivery of 29,000 additional eye examinations to First Nations people
annually, to provide population parity with non-Indigenous Australians.

• Supporting the First Nations Eye Health Alliance (FNEHA) to lead the
development of identified sector priorities for First Nations eye health, by investing in initiatives to build the capability of the First Nations eye health workforce, and the development, implementation and evaluation of the next national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health sector plans.

• Partnering with the eyecare sector in a multi-channel campaign to raise community awareness of the global myopia epidemic reducing its impact on younger Australians now and into the future.

Cappuccio said that Optometry Australia will continue to advocate strongly on behalf of the optometry profession for these much-needed enhancements to eye health.

Vision 2020 Australia’s budget submission

Vision 2020 Australia has also submitted its 2024-25 Budget submission outlining sector funding priorities.

This submission calls for investment from the Government to ensure that Australians can access the eyecare services in a timely manner by:
• Supporting a self-determined future for First Nations eye health
• Ensuring eyecare, early intervention and education are accessible for all Australian children including those with irreversible vision loss and blindness
• Investing in eye health and vision research.

“We wish to thank the valuable contributions and insight from members which ensured the submission is a strong representation of the current eye health and vision care environment,” Vision 2020 Australia said.

“We will continue our advocacy strategies to raise the voice of the sector over the coming months in the lead-up to the Federal Budget in May.”

More reading 

Federal Budget 2023/24 focuses on Medicare rebuild

Vision 2020 Australia’s 2023-24 Federal Budget wish list

Federal Budget 2022/23 health highlights

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