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Financial toxicity in clinical care today: a “menu without prices”

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Out-of-pocket costs are rising rapidly and can influence treatment decisions and health outcomes

Australia delivers health outcomes that rank well internationally, with per capita spending demonstrably less than that of the United States. Of concern, Australia’s out-of-pocket costs for health care are sixth highest among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries,2 despite universal health insurance. These out-of-pocket expenses accounted for 57% of non-government health expenditure in 2011–12, or over 17% of all health care expenditure.3 Health care costs in Australia continue to rise well above the consumer price index. The net burden of costs are reported by clinicians to influence some decisions that patients make, with the potential for detrimental health outcomes for individuals and for Australia’s health as a whole.

The average equivalised weekly disposable household income in 2013–14 was $998, with a median of $844.4 About half of all households therefore have a weekly net income of less than $844, yet that income has to support out-of-pocket health expenses. There are also limits to what is covered under different aspects of the safety net. Further, many aspects of community-based care are associated with part or all of the cost being borne by the patient, in many cases with…