Patients under the age of 18 and older than 65 will no longer be able to receive free eye care in most optometrists’ offices in Quebec, as 90 per cent of the province’s optometrists have announced their intention to leave the public health care system.
After years of unsuccessful compensation negotiations, the optometrists plan to go private by March 10, in what appears to be a final effort to put pressure on the government.
“For the past 15 years, we have repeatedly asked for fair compensation, and the government has been turning a deaf ear,” said Dr. Steven Carrier, president of the Quebec’s optometrists association, in statement.
“Our patience has run thin.”
In an interview with CBC News last month, Carrier said optometrists have been paying out of pocket for exams covered by Quebec’s health insurance board, RAMQ.
Optometrists are paid $42 for eye exams on patients under the age of 18 and over 65. Carrier said that doesn’t cover operation costs and optometrists end up shelling out more than $1 per patient.
In the private sector, optometrists typically charge $80 for exams on patients between the ages of 18 and 65, who aren’t covered under Quebec healthcare.
Carrier said about 50 per cent of optometrists’ patients are covered by government insurance — and that number could grow due to Quebec’s aging population.
The association says the specialists are collectively paid $56.5 million per year, which accounts for 0.15 per cent of the provincial health ministry’s budget.