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Are eye tests covered by medicare?

You can get free eye tests under medicare in Australia. 

Updated

Fact checked
Opthalmologist

Regular Medicare eye tests help detect and prevent eye problems, whether that means getting prescription glasses or treating an eye disease early. Vision screenings and comprehensive vision tests are ordinarily done by an option and optometrist, and are usually free with Medicare.

Does Medicare cover eye tests?

Yes. Medicare generally covers eye tests provided by optometrists so long as you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident. In most cases, the optometrist will bill the Medicare directly, this is known as bulk billing.

If an optometrist doesn't offer bulk billing, you'll have to claim your Medicare benefit back (usually 85% of the MBS fee) by submitting a claim to Medicare. The Medicare rebate (what you'll get back) for a comprehensive eye consultation is $57.70. Most optometrists who do not bulk bill, charge around $70 for a consultation.

It's important to know that while eye tests are generally covered by Medicare, Australia's public healthcare system doesn't cover the cost of glasses or contact lenses. Having health insurance with optical extras can help cover some of this cost, otherwise you may find yourself out of a few hundred dollars.

What is the cost of an eye test without Medicare?

An eye test without Medicare is usually around $70.

Find optical extras cover from $4 a week

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Optical Included Treatments Optical Limit Price Per Month Hide CompareBox
HCF Starter Extras with Optical
    • Spectacle frames
    • Spectacle lenses
    • Contact lenses
$100
$16.25
Peoplecare Simple Extras
    • Prescription glasses
    • Contact lenses
$150
$24
Qantas Basic Extras
    • Prescription glasses
    • Contact lenses
$250
$31.27
ahm black 60
    • Prescription glasses
    • Contact lenses
$200
$34.50
Medibank Essential Extras
    • Prescription glasses
    • Contact lenses
$200
$39
health.com.au Extras 50
    • Prescription lenses
    • Contact lenses
$200
$50.68
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Compare up to 4 providers

*Quotes are based on single individual with less than $90,000 income and living in Sydney. Always check for combined limits

How many eye tests does medicare cover per year?

Medicare will only cover you for one regular vision screening every three years until you are 65. At that point, you can get one every year. If you have a pre-existing condition, like glaucoma, you may be able to claim a rebate more than every three years depending on the condition.

The Optometrists Association Australia (OAA) recommend that adults undergo vision screening every two years so you might want to consider private health insurance to be seen more regularly.

Why have private health insurance if medicare covers eye screens?

Private health insurance might seem a little pointless since Medicare eye tests are free, but unfortunately it's not that simple. Here are some of the reasons why it's worth going private:

  • You're only covered for one eye test every three years. The OAA recommends you go at least once every two years, so if you want to stay on top of your eye health, private health can cover you to go more regularly.
  • Medicare only covers your eye test. If you need glasses or other treatment, you'll generally need to pay for it yourself. Depending on your prescription and the frames you want, you could be looking at paying anywhere from around $100 to upwards of $500. An extras policy can cover up to 100% of the cost of frames, prescription lenses and contact lenses.
  • Private health provides other extras. If you get an extras policy, you'll also get cover for things like dental, physio and more. With optical health insurance, you can also get rebates on prescription sunglasses and prescription swimming goggles.

Where can I get a free eye test?

You can get a free eye test at any optometrist that bulk bills. Simply look for an optometrist in your area that specificies they bulk bill. All you need to do is book an appointment and provide them with your Medicare card number. They won't take any payment from you; they simply bill the government directly so you have no out of pocket expenses. If they don't bulk bill, it could cost you around $10. This is because optometrists usually charge around $70 for an appointment and the Medicare rebate is $57.70.

Can I get an eye test online?

Yes. An online eye test can be a good way of seeing if you need to go to an eye care professional for a more comprehensive test. Some online eye tests can check for the following:

  • Defective vision
  • Corneal curvature
  • Colour perception
  • Retina function
  • Field of vision
  • Monitor vision

While it can be helpful to see if you have any eye problems, an online eye test has no diagnostic value. It's more like a basic vision screening done by an optician (not a doctor). Only an eye care professional like an optometrist can carry out a complete eye examination.

Nonetheless, An online eye test can help give you an indication of whether you suffer from certain eyesight problems like myopia (short-sightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness).

Are prescription glasses covered by medicare?

No. Prescription glasses are not covered by Medicare. Medicare generally only covers your eye test appointment but it won't pay for your prescription lenses, frames or contact lenses. To get cover for this, you'll need to get private health insurance.

Signs you may need an eye test

These are some of the signs that indicate you need an eye test.

  • You have blurred vision
  • You have double vision.
  • You have fuzzy or hazy vision - objects don't have defined, clear lines.
  • You have headaches.
  • You find yourself squinting often
  • Objects have little small shapes around them in bright light.
  • You have dry, itchy or red eyes
  • Your vision is worsening at either near or far ranges
  • Your eyes get tired or strained often
  • Your eyes are sensitive to light

How often should you get your eyes tested?

It's a good idea to get your vision screened periodically. The Optometrists Association of Australia (OAA) recommends the following schedule for vision screenings:

  • Children. Before age three, before they start school at age four or five, when they turn seven or eight and then toward the end of their high school years.
  • Adults 18-64. Every two years.
  • Adults 65+. Every year.

Anyone who is at risk of eye problems, such as diabetics, should also be tested yearly or as recommended by their doctor. People at risk include the following:

  • People with a family history of eye disease
  • People who have had eye surgery
  • People who have diabetes
  • People who are taking medication that can affect vision

Tips to get the right glasses for you.

Choosing the right pair of glasses is a very important task. They not only need to correct your vision, but they also need to be comfortable and stylish enough for you to actually want to wear them. Here are some tips to help make spec shopping easier:

  • Make sure your prescription is up-to-date. There's no use walking in with an old prescription for a new set of specs. Your eyes can change all the time, so if you are upgrading the look, make sure you upgrade the prescription.
  • Choose a frame that suits your facial structure. People with round faces look better in short, wide glasses. People with square faces look better in oval round frames. People with oval faces have a little more choice and can try a number of different shapes and sizes.
  • Choose a frame that suits your style. You could be wearing your glasses every day, so make sure you pick an option you'd be comfortable wearing for every occasion.
  • Choose the right lens material. You may be asked whether you want to upgrade your lenses with a variety of complex-sounding materials. These options, which will impact the cost, include the following:
  • Standard plastic lenses, which are cheap but prone to scratching
  • Polycarbonate lenses, which are strong (think sports eyewear) but not as good visually
  • High-index lenses, which are durable and useful for strong prescriptions
  • Aspheric lenses, which keep your eyes from looking too large or too small
  • Multi-focal lenses, which are used to correct near and farsightedness at the same time
  • Choose your lens coating. After you've chosen the lens, you can then choose from several coatings: non-scratch, anti-reflective (to reduce glare) or UV eye protection (to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays).
  • Buy the right size. Frames come in different sizes, so work with the optometrist to make sure you are buying the right size frame for your face.
  • Beware when buying your glasses online. You may run the risk of buying an ill-fitting or uncomfortable pair of frames you'll never wear.
  • Look into health insurance. For less than the cost of a pair of glasses, extras cover can pay for not only the glasses, but also a host of other services including dental, physio and prescription medication.

Picture: GettyImages

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