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Proposed rebate cut for cataract surgery.



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THE HON DR SHARMAN STONE MP Federal Member for Murray Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

Thursday 6 August 2009

Proposed rebate cut for cataract surgery

The Rudd Labor Government is proposing to cut the Medicare rebate for cataract surgery by 50 percent in November leaving the vision impaired to face the prospect of waiting years for surgery.

Dr Sharman Stone, Federal Member for Murray, said she is disappointed that the Rudd Labor Government is proposing to reduce the rebate from approximately $623 to $307.

“The Rudd Labor Government did not consult with State Health Departments or the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists,” Dr Stone said

“The Government cut the rebates apparently on the basis that advances in technology have made the procedure quicker.

“However local surgeons inform me that the procedure is still highly skilled, and 12-14 years of training is required to perform the surgery. The procedure carries the risk of blindness and a loss of the eye if not expertly performed,” Dr Stone said.

“Of the 200,000 cataract procedures performed in Australia each year 70 percent are carried out within the private health system.

“Unfortunately by halving the rebate, surgeons are saying it will not be economically feasible for some in rural and regional areas to continue to remain or to travel to country areas for little more than the Medicare rebate.

“More people will be pushed onto the public health waiting list if fewer private health covered sessions are available.

“Already waiting times in the public health system are often over 12 months. Seniors should not have to wait years for the surgery that can restore their vision.

“I urge Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon to think again about this decision and then to reinstate the rebates in order to have an efficient system,” Dr Stone said.

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