Two-thirds of older Australians going without healthcare due to cost, survey finds

More than two-thirds of older Australians have forgone or delayed some essential healthcare service in recent years due to the cost, research has found.

A report from National Seniors reveals that 68 per cent of older Aussies are denying themselves necessary medical services due to the spiralling cost-of-living crisis.

The report concludes the system as it stands now is not working, and flies in the face of healthcare system that is usually envied by countries across the globe.

It says: “In a country that claims to offer universal healthcare, many older Australians are going without because of the cost.”

The report is based on the National Seniors Social Survey and says dental treatments and checkups and mental health services were the most likely to be cancelled completely. Up to 26 per cent of respondents said they were unable to afford those services at least once in the previous 12 months.

And for every type of healthcare service, between 21 and 33 per cent of those surveyed said they had delayed treatment due to cost.

GP appointments, along with prescription medications, were the least likely health services to be forgone, but were still out of reach for between five and seven per cent of the older population.

The survey questioned almost 6000 Australians aged 50 and over and was conducted in February.

National Seniors also found that older Australians were more likely to delay specialist care than the general public, quoting figures in the Australian Bureau of Statistics’s (ABS) Patient Experiences Survey.

Those figures showed around 15 per cent of older people had forgone specialist care, compared with only eight per cent of the wider public, suggesting that on average, older people face much more insecurity on the health front.

The well-documented drop in availability of bulk-billing services was also noted in the research. One survey question asked respondents if they could easily access a bulk-billing GP within one week.

Shockingly, only 39 per cent answered with a firm ‘yes’, with almost as many (33 per cent) giving a definite ‘no’. The rest were unsure if they could.

Unsurprisingly, many people said they were experiencing new or worsening health problems as a result of being unable to reliably access care.

Dr Lindy Orthia, senior research officer at National Seniors, told HelloCare the resulting consequences of continuing lack of healthcare can be dire for older people.

“We all want to age well, but for some older Australians that is an unaffordable privilege,” she says.

“People have halved or skipped medication, seen unqualified doctors, or resorted to treating themselves because of healthcare costs. This is not what we expect in Australia.”

Have you forgone any healthcare services recently? Is it easy for you to find a bulk-billing doctor? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Health disparity worsens for over-50s

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. Bulk billing is unavailable in my town, I would need to travel more than 50kms and even then am not sure if it is available any more. I rang for a doctor appointment in my town this morning and have to wait 15 days for an appointment 🙁

  2. Because of costs for Dental, both my husband and myself have had to reduce our dental appointments..We used to see dentists once a year, now its probably every 5 years or when we have to…and..

    Re: Health: we are told that ‘early intervention’ in health issues is necessary for proper treatment however the costs for specialists negate this. When specialist costs are over $500 per visit how are pensioners or indeed general public supposed to pay this. Anyone know how to fix this?…or do we just live with it and cross our fingers…Please stop recommending ‘early intervention’ as a necessity until costs reduce.

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