ABC Radio Canberra AM program: Interview with Dr Rachel David regarding new survey released by the Consumers Health Forum

Station: ABC Radio Canberra
Program: AM
Date: 5/4/2018
Time: 8:13 AM
Compere: Sabra Lane
Interviewees: Susi Dusting, cancer patient; Leanne Wells, CEO, Consumers Health Forum; Rachel David, CEO, Private Healthcare Australia


NEWSREADER: Getting cancer is tough physically, emotionally, and in a lot of cases, financially. A new survey has given an insight into just how expensive it can be. More than a quarter of breast cancer patients who responded to it reported out of pocket costs of more than $10,000. Eliza Borrello reports.

REPORTER: The first time Melbourne woman Susi Dusting was diagnosed with breast cancer was in 2005. She says she had almost the top private health cover and expected that it would cover most of her costs. But it didn’t, covering the gap took a financial toll.
SUSI DUSTING: The next time I got breast cancer, I got a book from the Cancer Council and it had a section in the back called to record your expenses and how much the charge was and then what your out of pocket. So I decided to keep that record. All the costs probably were over $15,000 and I was out of pocket $7,500.
REPORTER: According to a new survey done by the Consumers Health Forum, Susi Dusting is not alone. It’s chief executive is Leanne Wells.
LEANNE WELLS: More than a quarter of our respondents who were treated for breast cancer were reporting out of pocket costs of over $10,000.
REPORTER: Rachel David is the chief executive of Private Healthcare Australia which represents private health funds including Bupa, HBF, and Medibank Private. She says the survey findings concur with some of her organisation’s own research.
RACHEL DAVID: But I think we need to be a little bit careful about these findings. What this Consumers Health Forum did was to actually go to their member organisations which are groups representing sick people and ask them to put in complaints about out of pocket costs.
REPORTER: She’s right. The Consumers Health Forum did send a questionnaire to member organisations like the Breast Cancer Network and it concedes its research is not perfect. But it says the sheer number of responses and the personal stories they told like Susi Dusting’s shouldn’t be discounted. Rachel David says another point she’d like to make is that health funds aren’t allowed to cover expensive out of hospital costs like follow-up appointments, x-rays and MRIs.
RACHEL DAVID: We think it’s time to look at relaxing those rules and allowing health funds to cover some specialist visits and some outpatient treatments.
REPORTER: The Consumers Health Forum wants the Productivity Commission to investigate what’s driving expensive out of pocket costs; a suggestion Private Healthcare Australia supports. In a statement, the federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the survey raised valid concerns which an expert committee is already investigating.

[End of excerpt]
NEWSREADER: Eliza Borrello reporting.
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