Looking for the lowest cost eye test? Wondering why Medicare covers the cost in some optometry practices and not others? Read on for a full explanation.
Medicare eye test - how often are you covered for a free eye test?
Anyone with a current Medicare card can claim a rebate on a regular eye examination. If you are under 65 years of age, this is now once every 3 years. (Until recently, this was every every two years and this is still recommended for anyone over 45). If you're over 65, you can claim once a year. Some people have an eye disease that requires ongoing management (such as glaucoma or diabetic eye disease). If so, you can be tested and claim a rebate more often, as required for your condition.
Bulk billing: Why don’t all optometrists bulk bill?
Some optometrists will bulk-bill the cost of your eye examination. This means that Medicare pays them directly for the test and you are not out of pocket. The amount of the claim varies from $30 to approximately $60 and has not really changed in decades. What has changed a lot is the way some optometrists practice. Many now offer a range of powerful diagnostic tests and treatments that are not bulk-billed. (A better question might be why do some optometrists STILL bulk bill?)
Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of many tests such as retinal photography. Most (but not all) bulk-billing practice will usually change an out of pocket fee for this kind of extra test.
But most people are happy to pay the fee for the extra information the test provides about their eye health. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for.
Who wants a cheap eye test anyway?
Marketing data has shown for a long time that some people will always choose the lowest cost provider, regardless of quality. Others will insist on the most expensive service, equating higher cost with higher quality – which is not always the case. (We all know someone like this)!
But there is a large part of the population who are happy to pay more and get more. This is especially true when it comes to safeguarding their health and the health of their families. This is where you get to control the quality of your eye care.
Not all imaging technology is the same. The Eye Practice has offered OCT imaging of the inside of the eye for over 15 years - even before most ophthalmologists in the country had this technology. Since then, they have regularly upgraded their diagnostic equipment and it is considered the gold standard for diagnosing and monitoring the progression of eye disease.
Equipment is not the same thing as experience or expertise. While a bulk billed test may include an image of the back of your eye, this is meaningless unless that image is interpreted accurately and this information is considered in relation to your eye health.
Are all eye tests the same?
No. They're not. Busy chains often book their patients every 15 to 20 minutes. During this time, you will be measured for your new spectacle prescription and your eyes examined for disease. You may even have some retinal images taken (but not always), which will record your eye health for comparison in the future.
Taking eye care to a higher level
Some optometry practices go the extra mile and take a proactive approach to eye care. These practices will have invested in the latest imaging and diagnostic technology. Their optometrists will be therapeutically qualified. This means they can not only diagnose your eye condition, but also treat it. The highest level of training involves regular travel overseas for continuing education. This isn’t available in Australia.
The Eye Practice provides OCT, peripheral vision (field) testing, intra-ocular pressure and corneal thickness measurements on all patients. If indicated, a map of your cornea is also taken, so that cornea disease can be properly diagnosed, managed and monitored.
If you have a particular problem such as dry eyes or red eyes, you may need more tests. These will help identify the source of the problem. Questionnaires on your medical history and ocular symptoms will also shed light on what may be causing your eye problem.
What are your eyes worth?
Are you looking for the cheapest way to get a new prescription for glasses or contact lenses and a general ocular health check? If so, then a bulk-billing practice may meet your needs. But perhaps you’re after a complete profile of your ocular health from people who are trained to the highest level. If so, look no further.
There is no substitute for peace of mind. Call The Eye Practice on (02) 9290 1899 or make an appointment online today.
(This post has been updated for accuracy and relevancy and originally appeared on The Eye Practice blog on 2/6/2017.)