Minimum Wage and Eye Exam Rates
I get a lot of patients that call my clinic and inquire about our eye exam fees. They get really frustrated by the fact that every clinic they call has a different fee and ask "why eye exam fees are not universally regulated by the Medical Service Plan?"
The best way I can explain the varying exam fee rates for each clinic is to use a minimum wage analogy. I use this analogy because I find that the subject of minimum wage is something everyone can relate to, so hear it goes....
In British Columbia, as of June 1st, 2018, the general minimum wage is $12.65/hour. According to the Employment Standards Branch of BC, $12.65/hour is a "fair" starting wage to pay British Columbians who are looking for work. For some, this rate set out by the government of BC is adequate for their needs and would not hesitate to apply for job postings that pay minimum wage. For others, the minimum wage set in BC is not enough based on a variety of things that are different for different people. Factors such as experience, skill set, education, and current living expenses could all be things that determine an adequate working wage for an individual. Everyone is different, so just because the government of BC says minimum wage is "x" amount, it does not mean that everyone will work for that amount.
This line of thinking is the same in the field of Optometry.
The Medical Services Plan (MSP) and Ministry of Human Resources (MHR) has set the eye exam fee at $44.83 to $46.73 in British Columbia. The government feels that this is a "fair" rate to pay for medically required eye examinations, exams for children aged 0 to 18, and seniors over the age of 65. For some optometry clinics, they feel the MSP rate is sufficient to cover their chair time and overhead expenses. For other optometry clinics, this rate is not adequate and they decide to set their own eye exam fee. Just like the factors that determine what is a sufficient employment wage for each individual, those same things are considered when setting the exam fees for a clinic.
Just like how everyone has a different opinion on what minimum wage should be set at, every optometry clinic has a different opinion as to what eye exam fees should be set at.
Before booking any appointment, optometry clinics should inform every patient the fees charged. This allows the patient to make an informed decision as to whether or not they wish to proceed with booking an appointment or would like to explore other options.
I hope this analogy helped many understand why every clinic has different rates and why the MSP rate is not universally accepted by all optometry clinics. As a patient, it's important to do your research and to find the best optometry clinic that fits your needs.