Research shows drop in government-funded eye exams for diabetes patients
January 8, 2013
Recent research developed by scientists at St. Michael's Hospital in Ontario found that those with diabetes are not getting as many annual eye exams as they did 10 years ago, even though these exams are critical for the patients' health. These exams are funded by the government and covered by Ontario Health Insurance Plan.
Diabetes patients are recommended to receive an eye exam every year, as they are at a greater risk of developing eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy. This condition can rob a person of their eyesight with few symptoms at first. Seeing an eye doctor is one of the only ways to detect this condition early on.
The researchers assume that the decline in numbers has something to do with the delisting of routine eye exams from the health insurance plan for healthy adults who are under 65 years old. It is believed there has been some confusion between patients and healthcare providers.
The study authors analyzed the data of diabetes patients 40 and older and looked at how often they received eye exams. The researchers found that those 40 to 65 years old who received eye exams stayed steady from 1998 to 2004 at 69 percent. However, after the delisting, the number dropped to 61 percent in 2006 and 57 percent in 2010.
"The Ontario government presumably decided to delist eye examinations for healthy adults because these were deemed to be medically unnecessary," said lead researcher Dr. Tara Kiran. "Although this likely saved money in the short term, the policy change clearly had unanticipated negative consequences."