Around half of Australians have private health insurance. Many people choose to have it because they hope it will help if they have a major illness like cancer. However, the results of BCNA’s recent The financial impact of breast cancer report show that holding private health insurance may mean you pay high out-of-pocket costs for some tests and treatments.
Our survey of 1,919 women across Australia found that women with private health insurance can pay almost twice as much in out-of-pocket costs for their breast cancer treatment as women without private health insurance – $7,000 compared with $3,600. These amounts are for out-of-pocket costs for the first five years only and do not take into account lost wages and superannuation.
Some women with private health insurance pay much more than this. A quarter of privately insured women reported paying more than $20,000 in out-of-pocket costs.
Direct medical expenses (tests and treatments) are the biggest contributor to the higher costs. Women with private health insurance paid approximately 10 times as much as women without private health insurance for their direct medical costs – $3,723 compared with $355.
This shows that the greater financial burden for women with private health insurance does not come from choosing more expensive items and services, for instance a $2,000 wig as opposed to a $400 wig. Instead, it comes from higher out-of-pocket costs for ‘gap’ payments for surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, breast MRI and other scans, and specialist consultations.
BCNA is concerned that many women say they do not receive up-front information about the out-of-pocket cost of their treatments.
Before we went to see the plastic surgeon I would have liked to have known how much it was going to cost. It’d be nice to know the average price range of this operation with or without private health cover. – Susan
Women with private health insurance may not know that they can choose to have their treatment in the public health system, or to have some of their treatment in the private health system and some in the public health system. Women may not be advised they can ‘shop around’ to compare prices.
We know that the financial cost of breast cancer is an important issue. We have developed some tips for reducing the financial impact of breast cancer if you have private health insurance.
Read more tips for reducing the financial burden of breast cancer on our website.
It is important for women to realise that even though they have private health insurance they may still be potentially significantly out-of-pocket. The best way to alleviate financial stress during this time is to ask questions of the doctors before treatment or when trying to make decisions about treatment options. – Jill