An Bord Snip proposes to abolish the Eye Examination for people who pay PRSI
Bord Snip proposals would cause increase in blindness and visual impairment
Proposals would also increase cost of treating blindness
The Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) has warned that abolition of the Optical Benefit Scheme as proposed in the Bord Snip report would lead to an increase in blindness and visual impairment.
The AOI also warned that it would cause an increase in the overall cost to the State of treating blindness.
AOI Optometric Advisor, Lynda McGivney-Nolan said that stopping the scheme would lead to an inevitable reduction in regular eye examinations among pensioners and older people who are those most at risk of developing incurable eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
“The critical factor in prevention of visual impairment and blindness is early identification of the condition followed by appropriate treatment. The vast majority of eye examinations are performed by Optometrists (Opticians) who always check/screen for these conditions and refer for treatment when necessary.
In 2008 the Optical Benefit Scheme provided 200,000 eye examinations at a cost of €5m. The vast majority of these were for people over 55. If the scheme is discontinued it is inevitable that many people will cease to have regular eye examinations, particularly older people who are retired and living off their pension. This will significantly increase their risk of vision loss and irreversible eye disease,” she said.
A recent report from VISPA (the Visual Impairment Service Providers Association) indicated that the number of blind people in Ireland aged 55 and over would increase by 170% between 2006 and 2031. “This highlights the need for appropriate investment in the early detection of eye conditions and the measure proposed by the McCarthy Report would exacerbate this trend,” she said.
Ms. McGivney-Nolan added that an increase in the incidence of late diagnosis of eye disease would also cost the State more in the long run due to increased cost in the secondary and tertiary treatment of blindness.
The AOI also highlighted the following points:
• 98% of people over 50 need regular eye examinations.
• The majority of claimants in the Optical Benefit Scheme are over 50 and very many are retired.
• Those claiming the benefit have already paid for it through their PRSI contributions.
• The proposal flies in the face of Government policy to enhance the provision of primary health care.
Ronan Cavanagh, Montague Communications: (01) 830 3116 or (096) 317 9731.
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