Approve the Medicare rebate for corneal cross-linking in keratoconus patients

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In February of 2015, I noticed the vision in my left eye was blurry. Only less than 6 months earlier, I had perfect vision. I went to the optometrist expecting that I may need my first pair of glasses, however this wasn't the case.

Instead, I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease called keratoconus.

Keratoconus is a disease of the cornea, where the cornea becomes irregular in shape, causing distorted vision. If you think of a perfect cornea being spherical like a basketball, an eye with keratoconus has a cornea like a football.

As this is a degenerative disease, if untreated, keratoconus can cause such severe damage that vision is lost entirely, and a cornea transplant is the only option to help in restoring vision.

However, there is a way to stop the progression before it can reach this stage. This is called corneal cross-linking.

Cross-linking freezes the cornea in its current state, so there is no further progression of the disease. This however, is at a huge financial cost.

Currently, the Australia government offers no Medicare rebate for this vision-saving treatment. Patients must pay out of pocket, at a minimum, a cost of $2000 per eye - which is highly unattainable for most hard working Australians, especially when you consider that keratoconus in most cases will impact not just one, but both eyes.

No one should ever be without proficient medical treatment, and it is appalling that this procedure is only available to those in a privileged enough position to afford it.

I'm petitioning the Australian Department of Health to approve the request for a Medicare rebate on corneal cross-linking in patients with keratoconus.

I have been one of the lucky ones.

My keratoconus was diagnosed early, and after having cross-linking surgery on my left eye, I am now managing well with glasses. I will need to have surgery on my right eye at some stage during my life.

Had I not been in the position to afford the treatment for my left eye with the financial assistance of my family, my vision would have continued to deteriorate and simple tasks such as reading, driving and work would have become impossible. It does not have to be this way.

Please help me show the Department of Health how vital this treatment is, so that everyone with keratoconus can diagnosed and treated early, and be as lucky as I have been.



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