Cancer Council Australia has welcomed the federal Opposition’s $2.3 billion commitment to reduce cancer inequities through strengthening Medicare and the public hospital system and fast-tracking drug subsidies.
Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Sanchia Aranda, said the plan was a “landmark” moment towards improved outcomes for the 145,000 Australians to be diagnosed with cancer this year and the hundreds of thousands more in active treatment.
“Australia’s relatively good overall cancer survival outcomes do not reflect inequities in the system – variations in clinical outcomes between tumour types and population groups and burdensome out-of-pocket patient costs,” Professor Aranda said.
“The Opposition’s cancer care plan has the potential to be the most significant reform since the establishment of Medicare for helping to ensure government subsidies are stronger and better targeted to the needs of cancer patients.
“Although Australia is proud of Medicare and our public hospital system, we know a lot of people still struggle to access services due to cost – while many others face extraordinary financial hardship meeting those costs.
“Expanding Medicare eligibility to close gaps in rebates could benefit thousands and thousands of patients, including many in greatest need.
“Working towards the elimination of out-of-pocket for diagnostics and specialists’ services has the potential to not only reduce financial burden, it could also lead to significant improvements in clinical outcomes. And accelerating the listing of subsidies cancer drugs could give hope to many patients awaiting access to new treatments.
“We know cancer survival outcomes are significantly worse for Australia’s most socio-economically disadvantaged. This plan has enormous potential to address inequities caused by cost and affordability.
“The federal Opposition should be commended for such a strong, landmark commitment to reducing the impact and inequities related to cancer, which is likely to directly affect one in two Australians in their lifetime.”
Professor Aranda said addressing these issues in cancer, the leading cause of death and healthy years of life lost combined in Australia, was an ideal template for improvements to the health system more broadly.
She said she welcomed the opportunity to speak with representatives of all political parties on reform opportunities in the public system to improve cancer care outcomes and address disparities.