Local optometrists take action on OHIP eye care costs

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Ontario optometrists are hoping the provincial government has a vision to increase their wages to see patients covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). During this time, some patients see red because they cannot make an appointment with their optometrist.

As of September 1, optometrists across Ontario have refused to see children and seniors whose eye exams are paid for by OHIP to protest the lack of increase in insurance -health pays each optometrist per examination. An Ontario optometrist cannot charge more than $ 47 per senior eye exam, which is the lowest amount in Canada. The amount of the province of Alberta is the highest in Canada – the government of this country pays optometrists $ 137 per senior examination.

The amounts that optometrists in Ontario can charge for eye exams for children – or for people receiving vision care under the Ontario Disability Support Program, or Ontario Works – vary. According to the Association of Optometrists of Ontario (OAO), the average amount an optometrist in Ontario receives in exchange for publicly insured services is $ 44.65 per eye exam. In 1989, the amount was $ 39.15. Near Quebec, the provincial government pays optometrists $ 107 for a senior eye exam.

“Optometry is not the same as it was 30 years ago,” said Hawkesbury optometrist Dr. Morris Hazan.

The local optometrist said technologies and techniques have advanced, meaning the cost of providing modern services to patients has also increased. Hazan said he has always had a keen interest in ensuring that older people receive the best eye care available.

“It depends on what the government funds for the services,” said Dr Joshua Smith, an optometrist in Alexandria, who served as president of the OAO from 2018 to 2020.

Smith said the average cost of an eye exam in Ontario is closer to $ 80 these days, and additional optometrists also have expenses related to operating their practices and paying employees. Smith said the $ 80 average was found in a BDO study that confidentially examined the financial statements of 75 optometry firms representing 300 optometrists across Ontario.

According to Smith, 80 to 90 percent of optometric patients covered by OHIP are found in rural areas and small towns.

Smith and Hazan said other provinces allow optometrists to bill on a variable basis, depending on the nature of the patient’s situation. Glaucoma patients often require many appointments per year, but OHIP does not distinguish between billing patients with glaucoma and those who need glasses.

Hazan said he didn’t want to end up restricting the number of elderly patients he sees.

“It’s not health care.”

Smith said Ontario’s health care budget is around $ 70 million and eye care accounts for 0.2 percent of that budget. He said if the government increased funding to cover the average of $ 80, it would still only represent 0.4% of the health budget.

“What we are asking for is rooted in evidence,” he said.

Patients normally covered by OHIP for optometric services in Ontario are not allowed to go to an optometrist and pay for an appointment that would normally be covered by the insurance system. provincial. Rather, most patients are advised to see their regular doctor, visit a hospital emergency department, emergency care clinics, or see ophthalmologists who have received recommendations from optometrists.

Smith and Hazan believe the public support is on the optometrists side, but not all patients are happy that they can’t make an appointment.

“My visits are covered by OHIP and on my last visit my prescription had changed so much that I was dangerously close to having my driver’s license withdrawn on the spot,” said Natalie Amell . “I called back in September for my late appointment, and they can’t see me until November because of this situation”

A woman who did not want to be named shared her 88-year-old father’s experience.

“They explained that they couldn’t see him because of their protest. He waited 7 hours in the emergency room to be told he had a scratched cornea. They prescribed drops to cure him and wanted him to come back the next day for follow-up. He waited 5 hours the next day.

Other patients who reached out to The Review to share their stories said they couldn’t get appointments for their children with special needs or had vision problems that hamper their ability to do their job. work safely. Three patients told The Review that they offered to pay for their appointments, but were turned down due to Medicare regulations.

Meanwhile, optometrists across Ontario continue to take action at work. The OAO has launched a large-scale public relations campaign asking citizens to contact MPPs, Minister of Health and Premier Doug Ford to demand an increase in funding for eye care from the OHIP. ‘Ontario.

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