AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said today that an AMA
survey of ophthalmologists highlights why the Government should reverse its
Budget decision to halve the Medicare patient rebate for cataract surgery.
Dr Pesce said that older
Australians would be hit hardest by this callous Budget cut at a stage of life
when they are struggling to keep their sight and afford a good quality of life.
"The Budget decision was based on
poor advice that does not reflect the reality of performing quality cataract
surgery and providing professional follow-up care for patients," Dr Pesce said.
The Government believes that
most cataract surgery is performed in 15 to 20 minutes - wrong.
The Government claims that
ophthalmologists are overcharging their patients - wrong.
The Government believes that
halving the Medicare patient rebate for cataract surgery is good health policy
- wrong and unfair.
The Government has put a modest
saving to the Budget bottom line ahead of the health and welfare of some of the
most vulnerable people in the community, - Dr Pesce said.
It is time for the Government to
do the right thing by these people, many of whom who may be denied the vital
operation that could save or improve their sight because they can no longer
"The rebate must be restored to
its proper level."
Dr Pesce said that the AMA survey
showed that more than two-thirds of private ophthalmologists would cut back
their public patients if State Governments followed the Federal Government and
cut the contract rate for cataract surgery.
"MBS fees no longer reflect the
true cost of delivering medical care," Dr Pesce said.
The Medicare patient rebate for
cataract surgery has been significantly cut twice since 1987.
On this occasion, the Government
has failed to acknowledge that the Medicare rebate must cover at least two
postoperative visits to the doctor, with most doctors providing three visits,
and some doctors providing four or more.
On top of this, the income that
doctors generate from providing professional medical services must cover their
practice costs, which include their staff and equipment.
These costs are met entirely
from the fee charged by the doctor.
"The fees that ophthalmologists
are actually charging has increased by just 1.8 per cent a year between 1993
and 2008, which is less than the CPI increase of 2.5 per cent or the increase
in average earnings of 3.7 per cent over the same period."
During August and September, 334
ophthalmologists responded to the AMA survey.
Key findings of the survey
• 72 per cent of cataract operations take more than 20
• 62 per cent of ophthalmologists provide three
postoperative follow-up visits as part of the cataract surgery. Ten per
cent provide four or more visits; and
• 81 per cent of private ophthalmologists contracted to
provide cataract services to public patients will not be able to continue
to provide these services if the contract payment is reduced as a result
of the cuts to the Medicare rebate.
Medicare data shows that:
• 79 per cent of Medicare rebates for cataract surgery
are paid to men and women over the age of 65; and
• more than 105,000 older Australians had private cataract surgery in 2008-09.