Ontario optometrists have withdrawn OHIP-covered eye services for seniors and youths after a breakdown in negotiations with the provincial government.
Regular visits to an optometrist are essential for retirees to preserve good vision and health, but for older Ontarians, the ability to see an optometrist has ceased since Sept. 1, 2021.
Ontario residents who are 65 years and older and those younger than age 20 have not had access to OHIP-covered eye examinations since Sept. 1 when members of the Ontario Association of Optometrists cancelled appointments for all patients covered under OHIP.
Negotiations between the Ministry of Health and the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) broke down in August over increases to optometrist fee reimbursements.
As a result of the withdrawal of vision care services, Federal Retirees president Jean-Guy Soulière has written a letter to request that both the Ontario Ministry of Health and the Ontario Optometrists Association return to the negotiating table.
“We are following negotiations very closely,” says Soulière. “We are extremely concerned of the potential impact of withholding vision care services from our members, youths and at-risk people who need it most. Vision health is fundamental to quality of life and well-being.”
The OAO has cited decades of the province shorting optometrists on the reimbursement of optometry services provided to people over 65 years of age and youths, as well as other vulnerable Ontarians with pre-existing health conditions. The OAO says that its members can no longer afford to provide services to these groups at a loss.
Negotiations between the OAO and Ontario's health ministry were ongoing prior to Sept. 1. Ontario’s government had offered a one-time payment of $39 million dollars to cover past funding shortfalls for the province’s 2,500 optometrists and a small increase for optometrists’ fees retroactive to April 2021. But the OAO says it's not enough and argues that the offer does not adequately provide for increased financing for optometrists’ services in the future.
Federal Retirees has taken up the issue both with OHIP and the OAO and is advocating those vulnerable individuals not be punished because of challenging negotiations and that services be reinstated.
We also encourage our members to contact their local member of provincial parliament (MPP) to advocate for a solution for individuals over 65 years of age, youths and other vulnerable members of society. If you have questions about your eye care, contact your optometrist and your family doctor to discuss your concerns.