In order to stave off a withdrawal of OHIP-supported services by Ontario’s optometrists, the province has appointed a mediator to negotiate a new fee agreement with the eye doctors. The Ontario Associations of Optometrists (OAO) has set a deadline of September 1 for a deal or at least some progress towards an agreement. The Association says in a news release that the fee for an eye exam has only gone up a little over five dollars in the past 32 years. In 1989, the Ontario government paid $39.15 for an OHIP eye exam. In 2021, 32 years later, they pay an average of $44.65.
The OAO release continues, “the government has refused to even commit to a formal negotiation process with optometrists, even though they do this with medical doctors and teachers. Despite all this, we are still willing to work with the government to avoid a service withdrawal. The government simply needs to commit to a binding, formal negotiation process — the same way they do with other health care sectors and ensure that optometrists will no longer be forced to subsidize publicly funded eye care.
OAO organized a letter-writing and petition campaign that garnered 782,000 letters and over 50,000 signatures to a petition calling for a fee increase. As of July 14th, over 72,000 Ontarians have sent letters to their local MPP. Plus, another 50,000 have signed a petition.
For its part the Ministry of Health issued a news release on Saturday blaming previous governments for the failure to address the fee issue. “We understand the frustration that Ontario’s optometrists have historically experienced. Previous governments have failed to build a meaningful relationship with the OAO. The Ministry of Health stands ready to continue meaningful and productive discussions, and our invitation to enter into mediation stands. We are ready to keep talking.”
The OAO is considering the Ministry proposal to appoint a third party to mediate the dispute. Currently OHIP covers eye tests for OHIP patients aged 0-19, and 65-plus as well as adults with specific medical conditions.