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Healthcare hurdles: Millions of Australians skip medical appointments due to cost

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Australians are cutting costs that could have dire consequences as the cost of living crisis worsens, according to new research by Finder.

A Findery survey of 1,054 respondents revealed 1 in 7 Aussies (15%) – equivalent to 3 million people – have cut back on going to the doctor and dentist as cost of living pressures grow.

1 in 10 (10%) Australians have also dropped or reduced their insurance coverage.

James Martin, health insurance expert at Finder, said many people are facing financial uncertainty.

"Aussies have been hit with everything from rising grocery costs and petrol bills to higher home loan repayments and rent.

"Not having the funds to follow up health concerns can have serious consequences – even more so than an empty bank account."

Martin said cancelling your private health cover can be a risky move, especially if you have a health condition or might need surgery later in life.

"If money is tight, consider reviewing your existing plan to see if it's possible to cut any unnecessary cover.

"Dropping down to a lower tier of coverage – from gold to silver or from bronze to basic – or nominating a higher excess can help ease the burden while still maintaining coverage.

"Alternatively, you could switch providers. Many health funds offer 6 weeks free and let you skip some waiting periods as a new customer."

Beyond dropping insurance and avoiding medical appointments, Finder's research shows lifestyle spending has taken the biggest hit. Half of Australians (51%) say they are limiting eating and drinking outside of their home.

Next on the list, more than a third of Aussies (36%) say they have cut back on going out to events such as movies, sports and concerts.

1 in 3 (33%) have had to reduce buying gifts while slightly fewer (32%) have limited taking weekend trips.

Beauty services (30%), charity donations (27%) and streaming subscriptions (20%) are all on the chopping block.

Martin said some savvy swaps could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year.

"Think about what expenses you can't afford to cut and have a chat with your providers to see what possibilities there are.

"Money management apps like the Finder app are also a helpful way to keep track of your income and expenses.

"Seeing your spending broken down by category can help you set a realistic budget and manage your bills," Martin said.

Are you cutting back in any of these areas as cost of living pressures grow?
Eating/drinking out51%
Going out to see entertainment (sports, plays, movies, concerts)36%
Gifts33%
Weekend trips32%
Beauty services (tanning, nails, massages, skin treatments, hair services)30%
Charity donations27%
Streaming subscriptions20%
Medical treatments (going to the doctor, dentist)15%
Insurance (health, home, car)10%
No, I am not cutting back, but I am worried7%
No, I am not cutting back and I'm not worried21%
Source: Finder survey of 1,054 Australians, January 2023

Visit Finder's Health Insurance hub to compare 30+ health insurance brands in Australia.

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