Labor’s Medicare boost for cancer care a tremendous step

 

The Labor pledge to introduce a $2.3 billion Medicare boost for cancer care is a tremendous response to what has become a heart-wrenching dilemma for too many Australians: high out of pocket costs for cancer treatment.

“The big increase in funding for diagnostic imaging, oncology, surgery and medications for cancer patients, is an important acknowledgement of the need for higher payments if Medicare is going to continue to ensure access to quality health care for all Australians,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells said.

“The Consumers Health Forum has in recent years highlighted the erosion in equitable access to health care created by rising gap costs, culminating in our Out of Pocket Pain report* last year which showed that many cancer patients were facing bills of $10,000 a year or more.

“Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, has said the Labor Medicare Cancer Plan will provide millions of free scans, millions of free consultations and cheaper medicines for cancer patients.

“An important feature of these changes is that the increased Medicare payments to radiologists and specialists will be available on the basis that patients are bulk billed.

“The focus on cancer is a worthy and understandable initiative.  We would hope that it will provide the platform for comparable measures to support patients receiving treatment for other conditions.

“For instance, joint replacement and cataract surgery, both life-changing procedures for many thousands of patients, routinely come with very high out of pocket charges and are subject to long waiting times in public hospitals.

“It is vital that Labor’s promised funding for public hospitals makes significant allowance for more resources for elective surgery and specialist outpatient clinics.

“We trust that further announcements from Labor will also include support for much-expanded primary health services and for a realistic national preventive health strategy,” Ms Wells said.

* https://chf.org.au/sites/default/files/20180404_oop_report.pdf

 

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Mark Metherell

Em.metherell@chf.org.au
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