This page provides general information on the bill you receive from your ophthalmologist for eye injections for the management of wet macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and similar conditions. It also gives some general information on your entitlements from Medicare.
As ophthalmologists are entitled to set their own fees, this fact sheet cannot provide specific information or precise rebates for your individual situation.
You should ask your ophthalmologist for written details on the fees and charges you will incur for consultations,tests and treatment. If the costs are going to place you under financial difficulty and possibly compromise your treatment plan, you should discuss this with your doctor.
The fees you pay may involve up to four areas: consultation, diagnostic tests, drug costs and injection costs. In some cases (especially for diabetic retinopathy), you may also be billed for laser treatment. Doctors may list and describe the items and cost on the bill in varying ways.
On this page, the term ‘doctor’ means the ophthalmologist.
Medicare item 104 - Initial consultation: This item applies when you first visit the doctor for a specific condition.
Medicare item 105 - Subsequent consultation: This item applies for ongoing consultations. From 1 Nov 2017, item 105 cannot be used (ie there is no Medicare rebate) if you are also receiving a procedure (such as an eye injection or laser) on the same day.
Fundus fluorescein angiography, also known as angiogram or FFA
Medicare item 11215 (one eye) or item 11218 (two eyes) - Retinal photography, including intravenous dye examination
This test checks for bleeding or leakage under the retina. It may be required before you first start injections in order to qualify for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) reimbursement of the drug that is used to treat the bleeding or leakage. It may also be done to check for new leakage.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
Medicare item 11219
An OCT scan shows the cross-sectional layers of the retina and is initially performed to confirm a diagnosis. OCT scans will also typically be undertaken on a regular basis while on a course of injections in order to monitor response to treatment. From November 2016, up to one OCT scan per year may be reimbursed by Medicare, but only when the scan is performed by an ophthalmologist for an initial diagnosis to confirm eligibility for PBS-funded eye injections. OCT scans for ongoing monitoring of disease are not currently reimbursed by Medicare. The Foundation continually advocates for reimbursement to be expanded to include ongoing monitoring.
Depending on individual needs, other tests may be undertaken.
The cost of the drug is in addition to the diagnostic and injection fees.
Lucentis, Eylea and Ozurdex
The drugs Lucentis and Eylea are registered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and are subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for the treatment of:
• Wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
• Diabetic macula edema (DME)
• Retinal vein occlusion (RVO)
From 1 Nov 2018, the PBS subsidy for the drug Lucentis has been extended for the treatment of other macular conditions similar to wet AMD, where abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula.
The drug Ozurdex is registered by the TGA and subsidised by the PBS for the treatment of:
• Diabetic macula edema (DME)
• Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) (from 1 Nov 2018)
Under the PBS, the subsidised cost of these drugs in 2020 per prescription (1 dose) is:
• $6.60 (concession card holder); or
• $41.00 (non-concession)
The PBS Safety Net will apply once the costs in a calendar year for all PBS drugs exceed
$316.80 (concession) or $1,486.80 (non-concession). After reaching the PBS Safety Net, each subsequent PBS script will be free (concession) or $6.60 (non-concession) for the remainder of the calendar year.
For those who do not qualify for PBS subsidised drugs, the drug Avastin may be used. Avastin is not registered by the TGA for use in the eye. This is known as “off-label” use and it is not subsidised by the PBS for these conditions. The cost of Avastin typically ranges between $50 and $80 per dose.
Either of two Medicare items may be used for the injection procedure.
Medicare item 42738 – Intravitreal injection: This may appear on the bill as “Paracentesis” or “Injection”.
Medicare item 42739 – Intravitreal injection: This item number will be used if you require sedation or a general anaesthetic, where an anaesthetist is present. This may also appear on your bill as “Paracentesis” or “Injection”.
In some cases, laser treatment may be used.
Medicare item 42809 - Retina photocoagulation
Medicare provides significant benefits (rebates) for many of the items related to eye injections. The benefit is normally paid:
• in doctors’ rooms: as 85% of the ‘schedule fee’
• in a private hospital or day case setting: as 75% of the ‘schedule fee’
• From 1 Nov 2017, item 105 cannot be used (ie there is no Medicare rebate) if you are also receiving a procedure (such as an eye injection or laser) on the same day.
• For injections in both eyes on the same day, the benefit for the second eye is reduced by 50%. If two eyes are treated on separate days, the normal benefits apply.
• OCT scans will only be reimbursed for an initial diagnosis to confirm eligibility for PBS-funded eye injections, with a maximum of one reimbursement per year.
Original Medicare Safety Net
The difference between the schedule fee and the benefit paid by Medicare is known as the ‘gap amount’.
The ‘gap amount’ for an eye injection given in the doctor’s rooms is currently $45.80. This is calculated as the schedule fee ($305.55) minus Medicare benefit ($259.75). (Refer to Table 1)
Once the total gap amount for all non-hospital Medicare items exceeds the Original Medicare Safety Net threshold* in a calendar year, the Original Medicare Safety Net will refund 100% of the schedule fee for subsequent non-hospital Medicare items. For example, for item 42738 (Injection fee), you would receive a benefit of $305.55.
* The Original Medicare Safety Net threshold is set by the Australian Government and changes from time to time. In 2020 the threshold is $477.90.
Doctors may charge more than the Medicare schedule fee. The difference between what the doctor charges and the Medicare benefit is known as the ‘out-of-pocket’ cost. This is different to the ‘gap amount’.
Note: Costs vary between doctors. The following is an example only.
If a doctor charges $400 for an in-rooms injection (item 42738), the out-of-pocket costs for this will be $140.25 per Table 2 below.
If the Original Medicare Safety Net has also been reached, the out-of-pocket costs would be further reduced.
Extended Medicare Safety Net
Once the total out-of-pocket costs for all non-hospital Medicare items exceed a certain threshold^ in a calendar year, the Extended Medicare Safety Net (EMSN) will refund the relevant Medicare benefit PLUS a further benefit of 80% of out-of-pocket costs for non-hospital Medicare items.
^ The Extended Medicare Safety Net thresholds are set by the Australian Government and change from time to time. From 1 January 2020, the thresholds for out-of-pocket costs are:
- Concession card holders: $692.20
- Non-concession: $2,169.20
Using the same charges as Table 2, once the EMSN threshold has been reached, the total benefit paid for the injection (item 42738) would equal the normal Medicare benefit of $259.75 plus the EMSN benefit of $112.20 (being 80% of the out-of-pocket amount of $140.25), giving a total benefit of $371.95. This means you would only pay $28.05 for that item after you have received all the rebates.
For some procedures, including eye injections, the EMSN benefits are capped. For items 42738 (and 42739) the EMSN benefit is capped at $244.45.
The maximum rebate a patient can receive, after reaching only the EMSN threshold, is is $504.20.The maximum rebate a patient can receive, after reaching both the Original and Extended Medicare Safety Net thresholds, is $550.
• Other than when used for an initial diagnosis to confirm eligibility for PBS-funded injections, OCT scans do not attract any Medicare benefits and do not contribute towards the Original or Extended Medicare Safety Net threshold.
• Procedures performed in a private hospital or day surgery setting do not contribute towards the Original or Extended Medicare Safety Net threshold and do not receive the additional benefits.
Registration for Medicare Safety Net
Couples and families need to register as a Medicare Safety Net family, even if all are listed on the same Medicare card. Medicare will automatically keep a total of your gap amounts and out-of-pocket medical expenses. Registration is free and you only need to register once in your lifetime.
To register for the Medicare Safety Net:
• Visit your nearest Medicare service centre
Call Medicare on 132 011
Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) patients
DVA gold card holders may qualify for some additional rebates, including additional OCT scans.
Treatment in hospital
Treatment in public hospitals
A limited number of public hospitals provide outpatient treatment for conditions including macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. There should be no charge for treatment and diagnostic tests, although in some states, there may be a requirement to pay the PBS co-contribution if Lucentis or Eylea are used ($6.60 concession or $41.00 non-concession).
Treatment in private hospitals
In some situations, a doctor may decide to give injections in a private hospital or day surgery setting. People who hold private health insurance may be able to claim from their private health fund for the procedure and accommodation charge. This is dependent on the insurer and the policy.
• Injections are typically required for an extended period (many years), and possibly for life.
• You should obtain a written estimate of fees, Medicare benefits and out-of-pocket costs from your doctor.
• If you have financial difficulty with treatment costs, discuss your concerns with your doctor or the appointed person in the practice.
• Treatment should not be stopped without discussion with the doctor. There may be a number of challenges with maintaining treatment, including costs or transport or other health issues.
• Discuss your concerns with your doctor.
If you require further information about eye injections, clarification or guidance on eye injection treatment and benefits or related matters please contact the MDFA's National Helpline: 1800 111 709.