Commitment to Save Sight of 47,000 Australians
Fifteen years after eye injections arrived in Australia, a proposed Medicare rebate cut to sight saving treatment is rejected by both major parties.
Minister for Health, Greg Hunt has confirmed his support of the Macular Disease Foundation Australia’s (MDFA) call to reject the proposed recommendation to cut the Medicare rebate on sight saving treatment if the Coalition is returned to Government.
The independent Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce for Ophthalmology recommended to the Government that the Medicare rebate for sight saving eye injections be cut by 69 per cent. Economic modelling commissioned by MDFA estimated that the proposed cut would trigger out-of-pocket costs for wet AMD patients to balloon from the current $1,900 per year to $3,900 per year – double if the disease impacts both eyes.1
Minister Hunt has confirmed that this specific recommendation to Government is not under consideration. He invited MDFA to be part of the Implementation Liaison Group established to review the recommendations and to ensure it would not have any unintended consequences for patients or barriers to access treatments.
“Our priority is that Australians get access to this critical treatment to save sight. Optimal health is central to decision making,” Mr Hunt said.
Shadow Minister Mark Butler’s office has also confirmed that the Labor Party will not be considering this Taskforce recommendation if they form the next Government.
MDFA welcomes this decision by the two major parties.Dee Hopkins, MDFA CEO
“Out-of-pocket costs are a driver of patient adherence to treatment. Our modelling showed that the proposed cut would have resulted in an additional 47,000 Australians experiencing permanent vision loss or blindness in the next five years,” said MDFA CEO, Dee Hopkins.
Since its introduction in Australia 15 years ago, sight-saving injections have revolutionised the management of multiple neovascular macular conditions including age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD), diabetic macular oedema, and retinal vein occlusion. This treatment is non-curative, and it is essential that patients maintain regular injections to retain vision.
While MDFA supported many of the 19 recommendations made by the MBS Review Taskforce, it had concerns about the impact of the proposed rebate cut to patients in a system that is already challenging for many to access. Government data shows that 25 per cent of patients receiving eye injections drop out of treatment after the first 12 months, leading to irreversible vision loss or blindness.2
MDFA research found that 29 per cent of patients on this treatment considered delaying or stopping treatment due to cost of treatment while 40 per cent had considered delaying or stopping treatment due to travel issues accessing their nearest eye doctor.3
“We look forward to working with the Government of the 47th Parliament to ensure all Australians have improved access to sight saving treatment – particularly as our population ages,” Ms Hopkins said.
1. PwC (2019). Impact of IVI rebate changes.
2. DUSC (2018). Ranibizumab and Aflibercept: Analysis of Use for AMD, DMO, BRVO and CRVO.
3. PwC (2020). Estimating the costs and associated impact of new models of care for intravitreal injections report.
The information in this release is provided by Macular Disease Foundation Australia located at Mezzanine Level, 383 Kent Street Sydney NSW 2000.
MDFA undertakes advocacy work in accordance with its charitable purpose and the guidelines set by the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission, and in compliance with relevant legislation.
MDFA always maintains our independence and is not aligned with any political party. MDFA works with both the Government and Opposition of the day.
Posted: 2 May 2022