New report highlights the benefit of privately insured eye treatment

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A new report commissioned by the Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) has quantified the benefits of patients accessing intraocular lenses through the Prostheses List.

Lenses are used to improve vision for patients experiencing conditions such as cataract and glaucoma. These prostheses can help prevent further visual deterioration.

Cataracts and glaucoma impose a substantial burden on patients and the wider community through reduced vision, leading to lower quality of life, increased health spending, productivity losses, informal care costs, and reliance on aids and modifications.

A growing number of people are receiving ophthalmic prostheses due to Australia’s ageing population and the increasing prevalence of eye disease.

In 2017-18, 1.9 million Australians were living with cataract, of whom 110,000 experienced visual impairment. 

According to the new report from Deloitte, the total financial costs associated with cataract were estimated to be $1.1 billion ($4,430 per surgery) or $2.4 billion including the loss of wellbeing ($9,465 per surgery).

The report says the value of timely treatment - the difference in waiting times between the private and public sectors (69 days) - reduced financial and wellbeing costs by an estimated $205.3 million through reducing the number of days lived with untreated cataract.

“Our report found that access to intraocular lenses through the Prostheses List saved government, patients and society $371m in 2017-2018,” said Lynne Pezzullo, Partner at Deloitte Access Economics.

“If all cataract surgery was completed in the private sector, additional savings to Government would be $162m. For each additional surgery that shifted to the private sector, individuals would save $836 and Government would save $1,885 per procedure,” she said.

Privately insured patients gain access to intraocular lenses through the Prostheses List.

“Timely access to cost effective private ophthalmic surgeries through the Prostheses List reduces the economic burden of ophthalmic conditions and gives patients greater choice of ophthalmic devices,” said Ian Burgess, CEO of MTAA.

“The devices industry was the sole contributor to lower private health insurance premium increases both in 2017 and in 2018. MTAA’s Agreement with the Government is on track to exceed $1.1 billion in expected savings, however, further cuts to the Prostheses List could erode these benefits.

“Further cuts to incentives for private ophthalmic treatment could drive more patients into the public system, putting greater pressure on an already over-burdened system.”

“The medical technology industry believes access to a full range of medical technology is one of the key benefits of having private health insurance and we’re committed to helping ensure all Australians lead healthier and more productive lives,” added Mr Burgess.