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BCNA News 05 Jan 2018

BCNA welcomes new expert committee that will consider out-of-pocket costs

BCNA welcomes the Federal Government’s announcement that a new expert committee will explore out-of-pocket medical costs and options to ensure Australians facing ill health are better informed about the out-of-pocket costs they may face before they make decisions about treatments. 


The new committee will be chaired by Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, and will include representatives from a range of organisations including Consumers Health Forum, the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

Transparency around out-of-pocket costs is of key importance to BCNA’s members, especially given the significant financial strain and hardship people and their families may experience following a diagnosis of breast cancer.

In 2017, BCNA commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to undertake a survey to quantify the out-of-pocket costs relating to treatment and care that people face in the first five years following a breast cancer diagnosis. Almost 2,000 people responded to the survey. The survey found that those with private health insurance had out-of-pocket costs of around $7,000 and those without private health insurance had out-of-pocket costs of around $3,600. Approximately one quarter of people with private health insurance reported out-of-pocket costs of around $21,000. These substantial out-of-pocket costs can cause financial stress and hardship for people and their families.

The burden of having cancer, treatment and feeling crap was sitting on one shoulder and the, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve got no money, what am I going to do?’ burden was sitting on the other one. It just became this pervasive horrible thing that never went away. – Georgie

Such financial strain can be compounded by ‘bill shock’. If people diagnosed with breast cancer do not receive clear, upfront information about the out-of-pocket costs associated with various medical consultations, tests, scans and treatments before they make decisions about treatment and care, they may experience shock and stress due to unexpectedly high out-of-pocket costs.  

Before we went to see the plastic surgeon I would have liked to know how much it was going to cost. It’d be nice to know the average price range of this operation with or without private health. – Susan

One of BCNA’s key recommendations in the report, The financial impact of breast cancer, is that health practitioners provide people receiving treatment in the private health system with comprehensive written information about the out-of-pocket costs of any proposed procedures prior to those procedures taking place so that women can make informed decisions.

BCNA hopes that an outcome of the expert committee’s investigations will be the full disclosure of all out-of-pocket costs to Australians undergoing treatment in the private health system.

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