Although healthcare in Australia is largely publicly funded, there are out-of-pocket costs associated with diagnosis, treatment and survival, even in the public system. In Australia, people with cancer report relatively high out-of-pocket health costs and a heavy burden of out-of-pocket costs relative to income. These costs include travel, hospital stays, specialist fees, parking, treatment prescriptions and over-the-counter medications for supportive care. The financial impacts of the disease extend to reduced or lost employment, early retirement and reduced incomes. The financial costs of cancer in Australia are also unequally distributed in that some cancer types are more costly to the individual. Those living in rural and remote areas also face greater out-of-pocket costs, as do those who use the private health system.

The large and growing number of cancer survivors in Australia is likely to mean that many Australians experience the costs and financial consequences of cancer for themselves, a family member or friend.1 Therefore, it is important to understand the perspectives of Australian patients and carers regarding the magnitude and impact of these costs; along with views about current forms of financial support for people affected by cancer.

What the ‘patient’ pays for cancer care and how much it varies

Although healthcare in Australia is largely publicly funded, there are out-of-pocket costs associated with diagnosis, treatment and survival in the public system. A moderate proportion of cancer care occurs in the private system (either self-funded or under insurance),2 where out-of-pocket costs can be substantially higher than in the public system. Older Australians with cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes or depression are more likely than those without chronic illness to report high out-of-pocket health costs, and those with cancer or diabetes were more likely than others to spend more than 10% of household income on out-of-pocket costs.3

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