In March 2021, the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) announced that optometrists will be engaging in job action and withdrawing services for OHIP-insured patients effective September 1, 2021. OHIP currently covers standard eye exams for those age 19 and younger, age 65 and older, and for those with specific medical conditions.
The College of Optometrists of Ontario and the OAO have different roles: the College has a legislated mandate to protect the public interest and is not involved in issues related to fees, billing, or negotiating with the government. The OAO advocates for the profession, which includes issues related to remuneration.
The College’s policy Optometric Services During Job Action outlines expectations for optometrists who take part in job action.
Optometrists should continue to provide care that is needed to prevent harm, suffering, and/or deterioration. Optometrists should see patients in a timely manner based on the individual situation and the patient’s own health history. If an optometrist is unable to provide care, they should make alternate arrangements, which can include referring patients to another care provider.
As outlined in the Commitment to the Future of Medicare Act (CFMA), patients whose eye exams are normally covered by OHIP cannot pay out of pocket for these services. The CFMA states that health care providers cannot charge patients or their private insurance for services covered by OHIP.
The College remains committed to its public interest role within the context of its legislative mandate.