January 11th, 2011 at 11:39am
The Australian Medicare system provides a rebate for visits to Optometrists for eye checkups, with a full examination being allowed once every two years, and a partial checkup more often (I think the rule for this is annually, but it might be more often).
Up until recently I was seeing my optometrist once per year in the week leading up to Christmas, with a full examination of my eyes taking place every two years, and a partial examination on the off years. In 2008 however, I completely forgot about my checkup as I was busy with other matters and didn’t see the optometrist until February 2009. Last year I saw the optometrist for my partial checkup in January, and this year I confused the last two years and thought I was due for my full checkup this month. Until today I hadn’t had a chance to make the appointment, so I went in today and found out, to my horror, that Medicare can not cover such a checkup until mid-February, due to my last full checkup having occurred in mid-February of 2009.
Well, that doesn’t work for me as I can’t book that far ahead with certainty due to the fact that my work roster, while somewhat predictable, may not follow the standard rotation through all the way to mid-February and, aside from that, the roster beyond this week was not published when I was at work late last week, and I’d be surprised if more than next week’s roster or, at a stretch, the following week’s roster will be finalised by the time I get in tomorrow.
I would very much like to get back in to the routine of seeing my optometrist in the week leading up to Christmas, and I certainly don’t want to wait until February to see the optometrist as I’m quite certain that I am due for a new prescription for my glasses, and I wish to discuss the idea of contact lenses, and would very much like to do this ASAP, in fact next Tuesday would be very good for me. Now I could, under Medicare, have a partial examination now, and a full one in February, but that seems like a waste of my time and my optometrist’s time, and would probably result in me not having a full examination until December, which would put me a long way behind in my eyecare.
So, on the spot, I decided that it was time to initiate some private-sector, free-market action. I enquired as to:
a) the price of a full examination
b) if the optometrist would be happy to see me as a cash-paying patient rather than a Medicare patient
Not surprisingly the answer to the second question was “yes” and to my surprise, the cost of seeing the Optometrist without the interference of the government’s red tape is a mere $65.
And so, I am now booked in for Tuesday. The entire conversation from the time of my two free-market questions onwards took about a quarter of the time that the conversation did while we were discussing Medicare options.
Now I could, if I am so inclined, return to having Medicare pay for my visits to the optometrist in December, or I could pay by cash and avoid the hassle of all of the government’s rules and regulations. I would also feel better paying on the spot as this money would then go directly to my optometrist, rather than him having to wait for it to arrive in the government’s intermittent bulk payments.
I expect that I will continue to pay with cash. In fact, I see no good reason to return to having Medicare pay for my visits if I can afford to pay for them myself. It is similar to how I did not take government payments while I was unemployed or intermittently employed as I was able to manage my budget to not need the support of the government, and it was my aim to remain independent from government funds for as long as possible.
I see this as an extension of this philosophy, and a way to liberate myself from government regulations which create an unnecessary complication in my life.
I honestly don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier.