High costs deterring chronically ill Aussies from seeking healthcare

Peter Terlato 5 August 2016

Expensive Australian medical costs

People with mental health conditions are particularly affected.

A quarter of Aussies suffering chronic illness avoid or aren't able to access suitable healthcare as a result of high-priced services.

James Cook University's (JCU) Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, the Bureau of Health and the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity carried out a comparative research study analysing the relative amount of out-of-pocket expenditure between people with particular health conditions and those without.

"It’s particularly worrying because these are people with chronic illnesses, not just people with a sniffle," JCU senior research fellow in health economics Dr. Emily Callander said.

More than 40% of people with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions sidestepped treatment because it's too expensive.

More than one-third of people with asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) said they couldn't afford to cover medical care costs.

These figures were underscored by the fact that these sufferers possessed 109% more household out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure than those with no health conditions.

Out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure for adults with mental health conditions was 95% higher than those with no health conditions.

Breaking down monetary woes further, individual stroke survivors spent an average $1,110 per year on healthcare, paying up to $32,411 in out-of-pocket expenses in the 12 months post-stroke.

People with arthritis paid, on average,$1,513 per year in out-of-pocket expenses, up to $20,527.

The issue of affordability is worse in Australia than it is in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Switzerland and other European countries.

However, in the United States people with a chronic condition were twice as likely to miss out on healthcare because of cost than people in Australia.

Earlier this year, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) released its first annual private health insurance report card, detailing which costs private health funds cover for 22 common hospital procedures.

Even if you have private health insurance, it's still hard to find out what costs are involved for specialists. Here are some cost-effective solutions.

Picture: Shutterstock

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