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BCNA News 15 Nov 2018

New standard for patient financial consent to improve transparency and reduce ‘bill shock’

BCNA welcomes the new draft voluntary standard for informed financial consent introduced by Cancer Council Australia

The new document will give healthcare providers clear guidelines to help reduce ‘financial toxicity’ for all Australians receiving cancer care.

Recommendations in the new guidelines include:

  • full financial disclosure to patients
  • accurate fee estimates
  • not charging higher fees for a service that isn’t supported by published evidence
  • engaging patients in decisions about their treatment options
  • providing public system options to private health patients.

The draft standard, believed to be a world first, was developed by Cancer Council Australia in collaboration with Breast Cancer Network Australia, the Prostate Cancer Foundation Australia and Canteen. It was presented at the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting (COSA ASM) on 15 November, 2018.

For many years BCNA has been calling on health practitioners to provide patients with written information about all out-of-pocket costs of any proposed procedures PRIOR to those procedures taking place to improve transparency and avoid ‘bill shock’. Our Financial impact of breast cancer report clearly illustrated the devastating affect the costs of a cancer diagnosis can have, particularly for privately insured patients who typically pay twice as much as those treated in the public system.

BCNA member Kate Murray, whose out-of-pocket costs for a double mastectomy and reconstruction were $12,000, wishes she’d been told about the option to have her surgery in the public system.

'When you’re diagnosed with breast cancer the immediate thought is to get it out of your body.

I now know that a few weeks wait is unlikely to make a difference and I could have saved my family a lot of money.

If my surgeon had explained that there was an alternative then I could have made an informed decision.'

Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO, Cancer Council Australia, said that financial information was particularly important for those Australians with cancer who were already financially disadvantaged.

'While Australia has a great public health system – the challenges of out-of-pocket costs related to the billing practices of healthcare providers are becoming increasingly apparent.

'We know that people with cancer borrow money, access their super, sell investments, re-mortgage their house, increase their credit card limits and increase their partner’s working hours to cover the cost of treatment and everyday expenses.'

Associate Professor Declan Murphy, a Director at Cancer Specialists, and Director of Genitourinary Oncology at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, has already indicated they will be showing their commitment to the new standard in their specialised cancer private practice and championing it to other colleagues in the sector.

The new standard is open for public consultation until 15 February 2019.

A copy of the standard and details on how to provide feedback can be found here.

To view our Financial impact of breast cancer report, click here.