Ontario optometrists poised to withdraw provincially covered services on Wednesday

Optometrists in Ontario are poised to immediately withdraw services covered by provincial health insurance, following a breakdown in talks with the government.

The Ontario Association of Optometrists says it’s aware of the inconvenience to patients but argues the government has left it with no other choice.

The provincial health plan covers annual eye exams for youth aged 19 and under, seniors aged 65 and older, and for people with specific health conditions.

The optometrist group has argued its members are underfunded for services and are absorbing about 45 per cent of eye exam costs. It says the deadline for withdrawing services may be moved if the health ministry agrees to increase the reimbursement rate, and says it is “committed to minimizing any risk to patients’ health and vision.”

The province has said it will pay optometrists $39 million to retroactively account for increased costs of services. Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a tweet that the professional association “said no” to further mediation over the weekend.

“There is a fair and reasonable plan on the table. I urge the (Ontario Association of Optometrists) to commit to working with us to reach an agreement,” Elliott wrote.

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