The cost of chronic disease and disability

People with long term illnesses and disabilities face serious financial hardship, according to health economists.

Australians with a chronic illness or disability face serious levels of economic hardship, according to an article in the January issue of the Medical Journal of Australia

Dr Stephen Jan, senior health economist at the George Institute for Global Health, and coauthors explained that the economic burden results from out-of-pocket costs associated with treatment, the costs of self-management such as home modifications and transport, and the loss of income for patients and carers. 

The authors wrote that poor health leads to poverty, and poverty leads to poor health, forming a cycle.

In Australia, out-of-pocket costs of treatment are high compared with other developed countries. 

A survey of 11 high-income countries found that Australia’s out-of-pocket medical costs were the third highest, with 21 per cent of respondents having spent more than US$1000 on treatment in the previous year. 

Additionally, of 28,665 Australians who became bankrupt in 2009, 11 per cent cited ill health or absence of health insurance as the primary reason.

“The available evidence indicates that the out-of-pocket costs of treatment and self-management and loss of income from chronic illness and disability are associated with economic hardship, catastrophic health care spending and non-compliance with medical treatment”, the authors wrote. 

The proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme is a significant reform that could help address this problem in the long term.

In the short term, targeted interventions such as income support and subsidies could provide some relief to those at risk of illness and disability-related economic hardship, according to the the Medical Journal of Australia, a publication of the Australian Medical Association.

Tags: ama, chronic-disease, chronic-illness, disability, mja,

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