One of CARP’s pillars of advocacy is equitable access to health care. Currently, access to eye care varies widely from province to province, resulting in variable health outcomes, and exacerbating inequalities in our health care system.
Currently, among the provinces that provide funding for eyecare, Ontario has the lowest funded eye exam in Canada.
Optometrists are the first point of entry into our eyecare health. They do far more than prescribe eyeglasses. Optometrists treat and manage a broad range of eye and vision concerns. Optometry exams can detect vision-threatening conditions like glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts as well as other serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
According to a recent report by Deloitte Access Economics, 1.2 million people in Canada are currently projected to be living with vision loss. Cost of vision loss to economy both directly and indirectly was 33 billion in 2019 and projected to be 56 million by 2050.
What this means is that it benefits everyone – both citizens and government – to receive affordable eyecare that ensures serious conditions are diagnosed before they impact quality of life and provide harm. A greater investment in eye care ultimately saves the health system and individuals greater costs down the road.
Ontario and Eyecare
In 1989, the Ontario government paid $39.15 for an eye exam. In 2021, 32 years later, they paid an average of $44.65.
This amount was completely inadequate in covering the cost (including rent, staff, utilities, equipment, taxes and supplies) of an eye exam. Optometrists have been paying out of pocket for years for a publicly funded health care service. What’s more, the government refused to formally negotiate for 30 years.
CARP strongly supported the Ontario Association of Optometrists in their efforts to hold the Ontario government accountable in ensuring publicly funded healthcare is accessible to those who need it.
In March of 2023, the OAO and government reached a historic deal.