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Too broke to be sick: 4 million Australians avoid healthcare visits due to affordability issues

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Millions of Aussies have neglected their health by skipping out on treatment in the past year, according to new research by Finder.

A Finder survey of 1,070 respondents revealed almost 2 in 5 (38%) Australians – equivalent to 7.9 million people – have skipped medical appointments over the past 12 months.

The research found 1 in 5 (20%) – equivalent to over 4 million people – have avoided going to the doctor because they couldn't afford the appointment, while 16% didn't attend because it seemed expensive.

A further 7% snubbed the doctor because it was too hard or overwhelming, and the same amount (7%) avoided the doctor or dentist because they didn't have time or couldn't get off work.

Fear of going (5%), not knowing where to access help (5%), and worrying about catching COVID-19 (2%) were other reasons Australians steered clear from visiting a health professional.

Gary Ross Hunter, health insurance expert at Finder, said Aussies are brushing off healthcare visits in a desperate attempt to cut back.

"Neglecting your health can have more serious consequences than just financial burden.

"Early detection and treatment are crucial for managing chronic conditions and preventing small issues from snowballing into bigger problems."

Hunter said healthcare is an investment, not a luxury.

"Think of it like investing in your most valuable asset – yourself.

"Regular checkups and preventable measures can identify problems early on, often when they're cheaper and easier to treat."

Hunter said health insurance is usually one of the first non-essentials to be scrapped during times of financial hardship.

"While it can save you money now, it could leave you exposed to high costs if you need medical care later.

"You're better off reviewing your existing cover and seeing if it's an option to downgrade or revise your cover.

"Dropping to a lower tier of coverage or upping your excess can help ease the financial burden whilst still maintaining your cover," Hunter said.

In the past 12 months, have you put off seeing a health professional (e.g. doctor, dentist, specialist)?
Yes, I couldn't afford it20%
Yes, it seemed too expensive16%
Yes, I didn't have time/can't get off work7%
Yes, it was too hard/overwhelming7%
Yes, I didn't know where to access relevant help5%
Yes, I was fearful of the doctors5%
Yes, I was worried about catching Covid-192%
No, I haven't needed to see a specialist in the past 12 months16%
No, I haven't put off seeing a specialist in the past 12 months46%
Source: Finder survey of 1,070 respondents, February 2024

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