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BCNA News 05 Apr 2019

BCNA welcomes Labor's Medicare Cancer Plan

The Federal Opposition’s pledge to reduce out-of-pocket costs for Australians with cancer is welcome news for Australians dealing with the unexpected financial strain that can come with a cancer diagnosis.

The $2.3 billion Medicare Cancer Plan announced by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in his Budget reply proposes to reduce costs for patients from the moment they are diagnosed with cancer. The plan includes dramatically increasing the number of bulk billed imaging services, including MRI, and reduced out-of-pocket costs for specialist appointments.

The development of Labor’s Medicare Cancer Plan has been informed by two BCNA reports, The Financial Impact of Breast Cancer (2017) and State of the Nation (2018), both of which shone a spotlight on the significant out-of-pocket costs people with breast cancer are facing around the country.

“We are pleased to see that the Opposition has listened to the stories of people with a personal experience of breast cancer and put a plan in place to reduce the financial toxicity that we know can have a huge impact on women, men and their families,” said Breast Cancer Network Australia CEO Kirsten Pilatti.

The Financial Impact of Breast Cancer report found that women typically pay around $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs in the five years after their diagnosis, with the majority of this in the first two years. Twenty five per cent of women reported out-of-pocket costs of more than $17,200 during their breast cancer journey. The report also showed that women living in a rural and regional area can face additional costs if they need to travel long distances for treatment and stay overnight.

“Reducing the financial toxicity of breast cancer has been a major focus of Breast Cancer Network Australia for a long time – we have heard countless stories from women and men who have faced thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs after being diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Kirsten.

“As if being diagnosed with breast cancer isn’t stressful enough, women, men and their families then have to deal with the financial stress as they pay for ongoing specialist appointments, scans and medicines. If you live in a regional or remote area, these costs can add up further if you need to travel for treatment and follow-up care.”

BCNA has been working with Cancer Council Australia, Prostate Cancer Foundation and Canteen to advocate for change around the issue of out-of-pocket costs.