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P.E.I. optometrists tell all - What Health P.E.I. will, won't pay for

Catherine Arsenault, left, an optician with Family Vision Centre in Charlottetown, tests out a piece of equipment with fellow optician Paula McKenna. The P.E.I. Association of Optometrists has begun an information campaign to clear up some confusion about what the province does and does not cover.  ©THE GUARDIAN
Catherine Arsenault, left, an optometrist with Family Vision Centre in Charlottetown, tests out a piece of equipment with fellow optician Paula McKenna. The P.E.I. Association of Optometrists has begun an information campaign to clear up some confusion about what the province does and does not cover. ©THE GUARDIAN - Dave Stewart

The P.E.I. Association of Optometrists has launched an ad campaign in an attempt to clear up some confusion about what Health P.E.I. does and does not cover.

“There are a few things that are different now, just in the last couple of years,’’ says Dr. Catherine Arsenault, an optometrist with Family Vision Centre in Charlottetown. “There seems to be a ton of confusion where people don’t understand what’s covered and what’s not.’’

All kindergarten children are covered for an eye exam, regardless of whether their parents have insurance.

“We know that 80 per cent of learning comes through the eyes, (and) the other senses cover the other 20 per cent. We need to make sure their eyes are functioning properly, that their binocular vision is correct, that their acuity with what they are seeing is OK and that’s it’s not interfering with their learning . . . We’re going to make sure you get an eye exam,’’ Arsenault said.

If a parent or guardian does have a health plan and it only covers some of the eye exam, the provincial Eye See Eye Learn will cover the rest. If the kindergarten-aged child needs glasses, the program will cover it.

“This is to make sure that we’re seeing every child when they’re entering the school system. We want to make sure that their eyes are not going to cause an issue for them.’’

Health P.E.I. has also begun to cover red eye and dry eye visits. If a patient has allergies or happens to have an infected eye for whatever reason, an optometrist will take a look at it at no cost. However, and this is where some of the confusion has come from, the province will not cover any treatment or a standard eye exam, only the appointment with the optometrist to check out the red or irritated eye.

And, said Arsenault, the province is now covering a portion of the screening process for eye disease in diabetic patients.

“We want to make sure they’re being seen because a lot of them are putting things off . . . we know that diabetes can cause issues to the back of the eye with circulation.’’

The province will cover type 1 diabetics every year, type 2 every second year. In the off year for type 2 patients, the province will pay the full portion of the cost of taking photographs of the retina.

“Don’t be afraid to call us because it’s going to be a lot cheaper than you think,’’ Arsenault said.

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