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Media releases 17 Nov 2015

BCNA says out of pocket costs are too high in submission to MBS review

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) has made a submission to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review with recommendations on how the program can deliver a more beneficial system to Australians affected by breast cancer.

CEO of BCNA, Christine Nolan said a survey of 259 women diagnosed with breast cancer in the past five years was undertaken to inform the submission. The submission was also informed by concerns that have been raised through various channels by BCNA’s broader membership of 110,000 members.

“We are concerned about the high out of pocket costs women can incur directly and indirectly as a result of a breast cancer diagnosis,” Ms Nolan said.

“We are also concerned that women in the private health system can incur high out of pocket costs for breast cancer treatment and care, even where a Medicare rebate does exist. In addition, we often see cases where women are not aware of the costs they will face when they use the private system. We believe there needs to be better education around the costs associated when using the private system,” she said.

“There are a number of items currently listed on the MBS that are necessary for the diagnosis, treatment and follow up care of breast cancer, and we would not want to see any of these items removed. But we are concerned that the rebates for many of these items have not been indexed to keep up with inflation or increased to reflect the introduction of new technologies or the true cost of providing these procedures.”

BCNA has stated in its submission that it would like to see rebates increased for items which are currently being recommended for women with breast cancer to reflect a contemporary MBS, including radiotherapy, mammograms and ultrasound, and breast reconstruction.

The submission also refers to a number of items not listed on the MBS for breast cancer that are commonly recommended by breast cancer specialists. BCNA supports the extension of Medicare rebates to include these items for women with breast cancer, including:

  • Bone Mineral Density Scans using Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DXA) for women being treated with an aromatase inhibitor
  • Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in certain circumstances
  • PET scans for women with locally advanced or secondary breast cancer
  • Lymphoedema compression garments and massage services
  • Oncotype DX Gene Expression Profiling or similar molecular profiling tests.

Ms Nolan said BCNA’s survey demonstrated many women face significant out of pocket costs and unexpected issues when navigating the MBS and there is a need to reduce these costs and allow for rebates for treatments women are commonly recommended.

“We commend the Health Minister, the Hon. Sussan Ley, for commissioning this work and welcome the opportunity to contribute our voice throughout the process. We hope the outcome will be a more modern Medicare with the necessary benefits and rebates for Australians affected breast cancer.”

For media enquiries please contact:

Penelope Davies | BCNA Media Manager | 0409 385 358 | pdavies@bcna.org.au