Ontario optometrists threaten to stop OHIP-covered eye exams in September
OTTAWA -- Ontario optometrists say they're prepared to reject OHIP-covered eye exams they bill for starting in September unless the government commits to negotiating a new funding model.
"For that $80 when the government's only paying $44.65 on average, the rest of that has to come from somewhere," said Dr. Joshua Smith. "We have to pay our staff, we have to pay our bills, we have to be able to keep up with standards of practice."
Currently, OHIP covers one eye exam a year for people under the age of 20, 65 and older, along with those who have specific medical conditions which makes up about 70 per cent of patients.
Dr. Sheldon Salaba, president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists, says paying out of pocket wouldn't be an option.
"There's some provincial legislation that makes it illegal for optometrists to accept payment from patients privately or from their third party insurance for OHIP services that they're eligible for," he said. "So it means if the government allows this to happen, that all those patients I was mentioning, which are over four million services that we provide on an annual basis, will have no access to optometry services."
In a statement the Ministry of Health says it has been engaged in discussions with the association and that "any decision to withdraw optometry services is the decision of the Optometrists Association of Ontario alone."
"All we're asking them to do is to start a dialogue with us and enter a formal negotiation process where they commit to cover the operating costs for the eye exams," said Salaba.
"Something's gotta give, otherwise you're going to have a ton of other issues down the road," said Kelsey Sayers, a mom of three kids who visit the eye doctor every few months for monitoring.
A sentiment resident Carmen Shier agrees with.
"Some people are on a tight income and every penny counts and I would think that calmer heads would prevail."