All eyes on spectacle subsidies

If you want to better see things your way but can’t afford prescription glasses, you may be eligible to receive a subsidy towards a new pair of spectacles.

The leading cause of vision loss is age-related macular degeneration, according to WebMD. If you believe your ability to see things clearly is significantly deteriorating as the years roll on, it’s time to get your eyes checked.

Each state and territory has a scheme to help seniors buy new eyeglasses. The eligibility criteria varies from one to another however, with some governments offering full refunds and others applying strict means tests.

For details on the scheme in your state, click the links below.

New South Wales
The NSW Spectacle Program is managed by Vision Australia on behalf of the Government. Potential recipients of a subsidy need to be assessed to see if they are eligible to join the program. Recipients are means-tested, with the level of assistance depending on their savings balance.

However, some people with limited savings and assets might be able to get new spectacles for nothing. To receive free specs, applicants must have savings or assets of less than $500 if single or $1000 for couples.

The Australian College of Optometry provides affordable eye-care for low-income Victorians, including optical examinations that are bulk billed to Medicare.

Pensioner Concession Card or Health Care Card holders can receive low-cost prescription eyeglasses through the Victorian Eyecare Service. The subsidies are from $41 for single vision, from $56 for bifocals, from $99.50 for multifocals and from $55 for contact lenses.

The Spectacle Supply Scheme is run as part of the Medical Aids Subsidy Scheme by Queensland Health. You may be eligible to receive a pair of basic prescription spectacles every two years.

To qualify, you need to have held a Pensioner Concession Card, Health Care Card or Queensland Government Seniors Card for at least six months.

If you hold a Gold Veterans’ Affairs Pensioner Concession Card, you may be eligible for spectacles from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Contact the DVA to find out more.

South Australia
The Department for Communities and Social Inclusion manages South Australia’s Spectacle Scheme. If you are eligible to be covered by the scheme, the most you will pay for single-vision lenses is $25; single-vision grind lenses, $30; bifocal lenses, $50; multifocal lenses, $100; contact lenses are free.

The service offers a selection of basic frames, and individuals can apply for new eyeglasses every three years.

The Spectacles Assistance Scheme helps clients with the cost of specific types of lenses and frames.

Not all Health Care cardholders are eligible and other individuals must be means tested to qualify for assistance.

Western Australia
The W.A. Spectacles Subsidy Scheme, appears to be one of the least generous of the nation’s programs, with a concession maximum of just $53.85 every two years. Eligibility criteria applies, and forms to seek assistance are available at optometrists.

Australian Capital Territory
The ACT Spectacles Subsidy Scheme provides eligible residents with a subsidy of up to $200  every two years. To qualify, residents need to hold a Pensioner Concession card from either Centrelink or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, or a Health Care card. The cards must have been held for three months or more.

Northern Territory
The Spectacles concession scheme is available every two years by applying through an optometrist. The subsidies are for one pair of prescription reading glasses and one pair of distance glasses, or one pair bifocal, multifocal or progressive eyeglasses. The concession may cover some repairs plus other costs.

Are you entitled to free spectacles? Do you think your state’s eligibility rules for subsidised eyeglasses are too strict?

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