The Association's advocacy platform is developed in response to member's needs and targeted to support members meet the growing eye health needs of patients. As a result the platform is currently directed toward:
- securing the development of a remuneration system which provides fair and sustainable fees for optometry services
- ensuring the optimum policy and regulatory settings exist to support a well-educated optometry workforce undertaking advanced primary eye and vision care to meet the needs of the Australian community
- establishing and supporting a well-distributed workforce that can meet primary eye and vision care needs across the country.
Fair remuneration for a sustainable system
Fair remuneration is critical to the sustainability of the primary eye care system in Australia.
To support fair remuneration for a sustainable system the Association continues to advocate for a system for fair annual indexation of Medicare fees for optometry services that reflect the true increase in costs of providing these services. For many years, Medicare fees have been indexed to a rate below the Consumer Price Index (CPI.)
Unlike any other health practitioner working within Medicare, the fees optometrists can charge under Medicare are capped by the Government. As fair indexation has not been in place for many years, the amount optometrists can charge under Medicare for clinical services has been decreasing, in real terms, year after year. The Association has been campaigning for the removal of the cap on fees that optometrists can charge under Medicare. Removing this fee cap would allow optometrists, like all other health professionals, to determine the fee they charge for their services, with consideration of the true costs of providing the service.
A well-educated workforce, practising advanced primary eye and vision care
To ensure the community have access to safe, quality eye care, and that the optometry profession continues to evolve as a satisfying and respected profession, the Association works to ensure:
- high standards of entry-level education and high quality, easily accessible continuing professional development are maintained
- regulatory conditions that enable optometrists to practice safely and to their full scope and that enable their skills to be employed to maximise benefit to patients and the local community.
A well-distributed workforce meeting eye care needs in all communities
Meeting the eye and vision care needs of the Australian population means ensuring that people in all Australian communities have timely access to primary eye care. This demands an optometry workforce that is evenly distributed . Conversely, concentration of optometrists that exceeds the needs of the local population can limit opportunities for optometrists to work to their professional scope and employ their skills to the greatest benefit of the community.
To ensure the Association's position on workforce size and distribution is well-informed the Association periodically undertakes research into the current and projected need and demand for optometry services and the current and projected capacity of the optometry workforce. Research is currently underway and will inform future Association policy and advocacy activity.
Health outcomes for Australians in rural and remote areas remain poorer than for their counterparts in metropolitan areas, and eye care access can be limited in rural and remote areas. To improve access to optometry services for those in rural, remote and some regional areas, the Association lobbies for incentives and initiatives to encourage and support the practise of rural optometry and for the ongoing funding of, and improvement to, visiting optometry service schemes.
There is an established 'gap' in eye health outcome and access to primary eye care for Indigenous Australians compared to non-Indigenous Australians. The Association recognises 'closing the gap' in eye health as an important goal, and works in collaboration with its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Working Group and Vision 2020 Australia to advocate for policy contexts to support sustainable model of eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
Cost can be a significant barrier to patient access to care. Optometry has been included under Medicare since 1975 and therapeutically - endorsed optometrists are able to prescribe medicines most of which are subsidised by the Government through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). To minimise the impact of financial barriers on patients accessing care, the Association continues to advocate for relevant consultations and medicines to be subsidised by the Government.
Further information regarding the Association's advocacy platform and policy positions is detailed through the Association's Position Statements and Submissions. Association members are provided with regular updates on the Association's advocacy work via Australian Optometry.