Treatment costs ramp up stress for critically ill: survey

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One in three Australians surveyed for the AIA Healthy Living Index 2018 are concerned about their ability to meet the potential costs of critical illness.

AIA’s annual survey shows the ‘financing gap’ between healthcare provisions and the expected real costs of serious illness, according to a spokesperson for the life insurance group.

The survey found that people in Australia faced a considerable ‘financing gap’ where savings, current levels of insurance and government health provisions might not be enough to pay for the treatment of critical illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Concerns about the cost of health care in retirement formed the basis of YourLifeChoices’ June edition of the Retirement Affordability Index™, The Longevity Issue.

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) believes that a secure and dignified retirement rests on three pillars: an adequate income, affordable housing and quality, affordable health and aged care.

ACOSS senior adviser Peter Davidson said: “It’s vital that we avoid a two-tier healthcare system – one for the top half of the population and another for the bottom half, of the kind that has long existed in the United States and still exists in dental care in Australia …

“The challenge for governments is how to pay for the inevitable increases in the future costs of existing healthcare programs, while closing the worst gaps in services (including dental and mental health services and the expansion of the NDIS).”

Senior economist with The Australia Institute Matt Grudnoff reported that healthcare was a key driver of price increases in the June quarter, particularly for two of YourLifeChoices’ retirement tribes, Cash-Strapped Couples and Singles – retirees who own their home and are on part or full Age Pensions. This was because many were struggling to hold on to their private health insurance.

Mr Grudnoff explained: “… lower-income households view healthcare as a non-essential category that they can cut back on because their budgets won’t stretch that far.

“This is concerning for several reasons. Skimping on healthcare is likely to reduce quality of life and, potentially, lifespan. It can also increase the total cost to the health system.

“If people avoid going to a specialist or other health professional early, then small, easily treatable problems can turn into large expensive problems.”

The AIA Healthy Living Index Survey highlights prevailing health trends, motivations and concerns for individuals across the Asia-Pacific.

AIA Australia and New Zealand chief executive Damien Mu said of the survey results: “There is a real and justifiable concern amongst the public regarding their ability to cope financially at a time when they should be focusing on being well and getting well.

“This report informs us that one in three of the Australians surveyed are concerned about their ability to meet the potential costs of critical illness. When asked to estimate the cost of treatment for cancer, almost half (46 per cent) of those surveyed, estimate an amount that would have serious financial implications for them.”

It’s not all bad news, however, with the report highlighting that people in Australia are ranked second in the Asia Pacific region for having had a medical check-up in the past six months.

For those who did not go for a check-up, cost and time were the most common reasons given. For Australians, more than 70 per cent of those surveyed had had a medical check-up in the past year, with a higher proportion in the 45 years or above age group (85 per cent).

YourLifeChoices members were quick to respond when asked for their views on private health insurance. These were typical:

“I have had private health cover for at least 45 years and am seriously considering if it is worthwhile. Now I’m in my 70s, it scares me to drop out but when I had surgery just over a year ago, my out-of-pocket costs were $5000. I just can’t afford bills like this any more.”

“Any insurance company provides a service for one thing only. Profit. We joined Medibank Private when it first started, and we received a fair return. Then, as we got older and Medibank was sold off, the cost went up and the rebates went down.”

Are you planning for the likelihood of increased healthcare costs in later life? Are you managing to hang on to private health insurance?

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Written by Janelle Ward


Total Comments: 12
  1. 0

    Gaps are the biggest issue, and any political party which does not address that (most currently) is not serious about fixing this MAJOR health costs issue.
    If Private Insurance exists, it should be primarily to cover all the Gaps fully. These basic facts are being ignored by most analysts as well as successive Govts.

    • 0

      You are so right George. Before the first universal health cover, Medibank, was created by the government of the day private health cover did mean that you were covered for the majority of costs.

  2. 0

    Perhaps this issue is playing right into the gubbermints’ hands given that they’re forever devising ways and means of limiting pensions or making access/qualifying harder. Thus, if a few extra old farts were to fall off the twig due to both parties combined inadequacy that then amounts to a double windfall for gubbermint – reduced pension numbers PLUS health cost savings as a result.
    The health system has been in turmoil for decades – or so they would like us to believe. As most states seem incapable of operating their own health dept’s viably and thus rely on the Fed’s to kick the can along then it’s anyone’s guess as regards reliability.

    The added burden of current/future life expectancy will see hospitals on track for an almighty train wreck situation. Everyday admittance to hospital’s for; sniffles, sneezes, sore throats, aches, pains (most in posterior) and all/any insignificant malaise that besets the ‘I’ve still gotta lotta livin to do’ fraternity will simply reach terminal velocity (forgive pun) – sooner than later.

    Comparison to America is irrelevant – it has no bearing on our situation – people either make provision for their own circumstance or take what’s on offer in the public system.
    Just the annual cost of the PBS alone is staggering: makes you wonder who the real drug addicts are….time for my dill pill. Good health.

    • 0

      Yes MD. It must irk doctors no end that people with acute viral infections rock up for the mostly unnecessary visit when staying home, resting, drinking fluids and using some common chemist products would work a treat without spreading the viruses around.

      This time of year is very bad news if you really need to see a doctor. Running the risk of being infected by all the dills that can’t treat a cold or flu properly.

      The co-payment was a very good idea to slow the patients abusing the system because it doesn’t cost them anything.

      Sorting out the need for a certificate for work would be good as well.
      Maybe one illness per year without a certificate would help or the worker with the cold have an appointment with management to prove they have a virus or fever. Would save the medical system unnecessary work. Hopefully management would trust the workers and not want to be exposed themselves.

      The States have gifted billions in revenue to foreign governments and corporations through privatisations. Energy Australia, now Chinese owned alone transferred close to $8 billion offshore with no tax paid last year. The lottery and lotto once supported hospitals before being flogged off.

      Between the medical fraternity, big pharma and the insurance industry we are being fleeced big time.

    • 0

      Yep, you’re onto part root cause of health system problems Rae. It has me wondering whether some folk feel the need for an outing and a visit to the quack to massage their doubts regards their longevity and in the process simply clog the system.

      Bring on the co-payment – that’ll sort a few of the malingerers/attention seekers.

      Oh and you overlooked ‘BANKS’ in the last para.

      Good health to you.

  3. 0

    The real problem is that we don’t have a health industry. We have a sickness industry. The money made out of people having health problems is mind-boggling. Cancer treatment is one of the biggest money spinners in the world. Who, seriously – in the business – wants to find a cure? There are many claims that simple treatments (like taking or injecting bicarb soda, for example) work extremely well for many kinds of cancer – especially in early stages, and that chemo and radiation kill more people than the disease. But natural treatments are shunned. Same for other health problems.

    It’s notable that someone with no health insurance can go to a GP as often as they want, be referred to specialists, have X-rays and tests ad nauseum and Medicare continues to pay – sometimes 100% of the bill, depending on the provider’s charging policies. But try to go to a physio, dietician, naturopath, psychologist, etc. and you find yourself tightly restricted unless you can afford a big bill. Yet in many cases a few visits to one of these alternate health providers would remove the need for GPs and specialists. (I can attest to that because a naturopath solved a major problem that doctors, specialists and even major surgery had failed to address over a period of nearly 20 years!)

    Health costs will continue to rise, therefore challenging any government trying to deliver security to people who are currently worried about the costs of treatment for a major problem, until we rid the industry of commercial interests and shift the focus from profit to well-being – if such a shift is even remotely possible in our greed-driven society.

    A GP told me that if he contracted cancer at age 70+, he would not take treatment. Why? Because without treatment he would probably have 15 years of quality life, whereas with treatment he might have 20 or 30, but he’d suffer a great deal, and he would rather die at 85 than suffer pain and trauma to MAYBE add 15 years to his life span. Yet he readily admitted that he couldn’t find one among his colleagues who wouldn’t insist a cancer patient aged 70 undergo extensive chemo and radiation therapy.

    George is right. Gaps are the biggest issue. Health insurance is very poor value for most people. And that’s partly the fault of the profit-driven insurers, but it’s really down to that core issue of health being a profit-making business in which greed prevails over genuine concern for health.

    • 0

      Fair comment, well put, not sure how many 70 year old(ie)s would be prepared to take their chances by foregoing all the (un)necessary attention though.

  4. 0

    Seems like the neo-liberal belief that private is more efficient and cheaper isn’t panning out so well for the bottom 80% of everyone. Of course the top 20% are doing amazingly well and $5000 gap for them is nothing much.

    The only reason it’s more efficient and cheaper for them is the 300% of income rises they have had while the rest have suffered real income falls.

    It’s outrageous really when that few decades from 1945 to the Berlin Wall falling proved how very equitable a social democracy could function with just a little more sharing going on and less rampant greed by a few at the top of the pile.

  5. 0

    Who thinks going to the doctor is an exciting outing? Pensioners and low income workers and children need the bulk billing services. If that was taken away poor people would not go to the doctor. People who think they are sick when they are not are mentally unwell and still need care. Just lift the GP contribution from the government as it has been frozen for far too long now. Pneumonia can be fairly silent so people with flu do need to go to the doctor. They should stay out of cinemas and shopping centres though!

    • 0

      Kathleen You are spot on. I am a pensioner and rely on private health insurance for major operations such as hip replacements. My daughter had to attend ta GP to get a medical certificate for work . It turns out now that the local chemist offers work certificates for minor illnesses such as colds and flu so sick people will be able to avoid surgeries where people who have major health issues will not be affected. Chemists coming on board and working with GPS is a win for all people.

  6. 0

    I agree that gaps should be covered fully. Also there should be no more price hikes. I think also that if you see a specialist then health insurance should cover the cost of the visit if you have private health insurance or rely on Medicare alone.



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