McGuinty Government introduces changes to eye care services

The McGuinty government is making changes to the way OHIP insures routine eye exams, Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman announced today.

Effective today (November 1, 2004) people with medical conditions affecting eyesight will receive increased coverage, while adults between the ages of 20 and 64 will no longer be covered.

"We are making changes to ensure that the people most at risk for eye problems receive the care they need," Smitherman said. "With these changes, hundreds of thousands of people in this province with medical conditions that affect their eyes will have more access to eye care than they have ever had before."

The nearly 600,000 Ontarians with conditions like diabetes, glaucoma and cataracts will be eligible to receive an OHIP-insured major eye exam once a year. Prior to this date, they were only covered for exams by optometrists once every two years.

"I am pleased that the Ontario government is enhancing eye care for people with diabetes," said Gary O'Connor, Area Executive Director, Greater Toronto-Central South. "This change is consistent with the Canadian Diabetes Association's Clinical Practice Guidelines."

"A top priority in eye care must always be anticipating and preventing future problems," said Andrew Budning, Chair of the Section of Ophthalmology at the Ontario Medical Association. "By increasing access and providing the best quality eye care by the most qualified professionals to people with sight threatening medical conditions the government is doing just that."

Seniors over 64 and people under 20 will continue to have coverage for an eye exam once a year, and Ontarians receiving social assistance will continue to be covered for an exam every two years.

Adults aged 20 to 64 with no underlying medical conditions will no longer be covered by OHIP. It is estimated that 60 per cent of these individuals have private health insurance that may provide eye care coverage. These changes bring Ontario into line with other provinces, none of whom cover routine eye exams for adults without medical conditions.

"We have decided to focus our resources where they will do the most good," said Smitherman. "And that is by protecting young people, seniors, and those with medical conditions."

The changes will not affect opthalmology services for patients of any age with medical conditions or diseases affecting the eyes.

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