5th Mar 2018
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The health issue Medicare ignores
Author: Janelle Ward
The health issue Medicare ignores

Have you had a run-in with cancer? Had surgery? Radiotherapy? Chemotherapy?

Then you may have developed lymphoedema. You may have required lymphatic drainage, massage, special support garments. And you may have been totally out of pocket for all such expenses – even though treatment to manage the condition or prevent it getting any worse would be less of a drain on the public purse.

Lymphatic drainage or massage is somewhere between helpful and effective but it doesn’t come cheap – $100-plus for a session in my experience. Similarly, custom-fitted garments are terrific, but costly – even those you buy online.

Having spent $500 on three visits and garments in the past month, today’s Lymphoedema Awareness Day mission has caught my attention. The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and the Australasian Lymphology Association (ALA) are calling on the Government to permit Medicare rebates for treatment.

I’d also like my health fund to offer the same support.

National chair of APA Cancer, Lymphoedema and Palliative Care Elise Gane says the illness – a common side-effect of cancer surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy – is not widely understood.

“When lymph nodes are removed or damaged, fluid build-up and painful swelling often occurs in the limbs, breast, neck or genital regions,” she says.

“Physios who treat lymphoedema patients have good success in helping them relieve discomfort and get better joint movement in the affected area. In particular, lymphoedema-trained physios are expert at managing patients’ lymphatic drainage, applying compression bandaging and organising appropriate compression garments to relive their often considerable discomfort.

“This allows patients to be more physically active and engaged in their work and social roles, which has an immeasurably positive effect on their outlook.”

But … lymphoedema therapy does not have its own Medicare number, so for some, treatment is not affordable and an active lifestyle – and well-being – are compromised.

Out-of-pocket expenses for women suffering from lymphoedema due to breast cancer treatment averages $977 a year, according to the APA.

ALA president Leonie Naumann says: “One in every 6000 people live with primary lymphoedema and approximately 20 per cent of all cancer survivors develop secondary lymphoedema. There is currently no cure for lymphoedema but it can be managed by a qualified lymphoedema therapist.”

Do you suffer from lymphoedema? What treatment do you find effective?

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    COMMENTS

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    Knows-a-lot
    6th Mar 2018
    10:53am
    Because it adds to the Health budget burden up-front, the moron Lieberal government will never agree to adding it to Medicare - even though, as you say, it saves money in the long run.
    Anonymous
    6th Mar 2018
    5:10pm
    Here we go again - the MORON labor government did nothing

    Don't worry Liberals will fix it
    patti
    6th Mar 2018
    11:27am
    I would also like health funds to recognise that special shoes for those with problem feet are very expensive. I paid $400 for my last pair, although I try and buy them on sale when I can. If I joined a gym, my health fund would reimburse the cost of special gym shoes. Why can't I receive the same help?
    Anonymous
    6th Mar 2018
    5:11pm
    the shoes wont make you fitter and healthier and reduce your potential medical claims
    Sundays
    6th Mar 2018
    11:39am
    I think its also appalling that MRI scan for Prostrate Cancer costs around $360 and is not covered by either the Health Funds, or Medicare.
    KSS
    6th Mar 2018
    12:09pm
    MRI for anything costs $360 with no reimbursement.
    Sundays
    6th Mar 2018
    9:09pm
    Yes, but if the specialist think there is a problem it is the recommended screening for prostrate cancer before they will look at a biopsy. As you know the initial screening for breast cancer is free.
    tango18
    6th Mar 2018
    10:19pm
    Yes initial screening for breast cancer is free, but breast cancer affects men and women. Not much publicity around male breast cancer but the rates are not insignificant.
    mike
    6th Mar 2018
    11:45am
    My mother had lymphoedema and struggled financially whilst bastard hockey called disabled rorters and smashed the retirement plans of hundreds of thousands and he himself was rorting the travel allowance not one but multiple times to pay for a Canberra mansion that he opensly boasted he got through lying and cheating. Then Bronwyn Bishop flew helicopters around the country to attend dog and pony shows and Julia Bishop flew VIP flights to attend fund raisers in Perth whilst sending hundreds of millions to Muslim countries that hate and want to kill us. The Turnbull announced he was going to restore the PCC but then lied and only a few had it restored whilst creating special tax funded $190000 positions to pregnant girlfriends of National Party identities. No wonder there is no money for the sick and needy.
    shirboy
    6th Mar 2018
    1:30pm
    Approach your MPs to fight for change.
    Andy
    6th Mar 2018
    1:52pm
    $360? And the rest. Try $500, or $650.
    KB
    6th Mar 2018
    3:26pm
    Many ultrasounds and scans are not covered by Medicare thanks to the Liberals.
    Anonymous
    6th Mar 2018
    5:11pm
    It was Labor who introduced these exemptions
    Big Kev
    6th Mar 2018
    11:54pm
    This Government doesn't seem to understand that if you invest in preventative medicine you can save on Tertiary care. It is because the Medicare is a Federal Program and the Hospital is a (mostly Labor) State Government responsibility. They don't want to invest in people. That's why the first section Newman's Liberal State Government abolished was the preventative health area.
    vinradio
    7th Mar 2018
    11:35am
    I have had lymphoedema for many years. I could get some money back from my health fund and it was worth it, as I was spending over $300 on a custom made sleeve, but this was from a private health fund. losing weight is a big help, my lymph arm is not really a problem now, and I don't bother getting custom made sleeves any more, in fact I got my last one from the UK off Ebay for about $70, and it does a really good job.
    Gwennie
    8th Mar 2018
    8:26am
    People it will not fix anything by blaming one or the other political parties!

    The FACT is, we spent over $650 on an MRI and then 0ver $1000 out of our pocket as they are not Medicare covered just to get to the stage of Prostate Cancer diagnosed! THEN it was over $12,000 OUT OF POCKET expenses. AND yes, we do have top health cover.

    We need to use our energy to get things changed as it is not only prostate cancer that is lacking in the funding area. Everyone's health needs to be treated equally at the medicare level.


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