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Unintended consequences of delisting routine eye exams on retinopathy screening for people with diabetes in Ontario, Canada

Kiran T, Kopp A, Moineddin R, Victor JC, Campbell RJ, Shah BR, Glazier RH. CMAJ. 2013; 185(3):E167-73. Epub 2013 Jan 7.


Background — Routine eye examinations for healthy adults aged 20–64 years were delisted from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan in 2004, but they continue to be insured for people with diabetes regardless of age. The researchers sought to assess whether the delisting of routine eye examinations for healthy adults had the unintended consequence of decreasing retinopathy screening for adults with diabetes.

Methods — The researchers used administrative data to calculate eye examinations for people with diabetes ages 40–64 years and 65 years and older in each 2-year period from 1998 to 2010. The researchers examined differences by sex, income, rurality and type of health care provider. The researchers used segmented linear regression to assess the change in trend before and after 2004.

Results — For people with diabetes aged 65 years and older, eye examinations rose gradually from 1998 to 2010, with no substantial change between 2004 and 2006. For people with diabetes aged 40–65 years, there was an 8.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] 6.3%–11.1%) decrease in eye examinations between 2004 and 2006. Results were similar for all population subgroups. Ophthalmologic examinations decreased steadily for both age groups during the study period, and there was a decline in optometry examinations for people ages 40–65 years after 2004.

Interpretation — The delisting of routine eye examinations for healthy adults in Ontario had the unintended consequence of reducing publicly funded retinopathy screening for people with diabetes. More research is needed to understand whether patients are being charged for an insured service or to what degree misunderstanding has prevented patients from seeking care.

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Keywords: Ophthalmologic disorders Diabetes Health care evaluation

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