Medical expenses: Where can I get assistance?
Being diagnosed - or having a family member diagnosed - with breast cancer understandably causes a tremendous amount of anxiety, not just about the state of your health, but about the state of your finances. What happens if you can’t work? How will you pay the bills? The important thing to remember is there are plenty of resources out there for financial help both from the government and the numerous wonderful charities out there.
There are health subsidies and practical assistance that you can claim for you and your family to help reduce the financial impact of a diagnosis of breast cancer. Your hospital social worker or breast care nurse should be able to tell you exactly what you’re eligible for, including information on the services that are available in your state and local area, but we’ve put together a list of some of the help that you’re entitled to.
Are you on a low income or unable to work because of your diagnosis? Then you could be entitled to payments or services from Centrelink. Get in touch with Centrelink or a social worker for more information on claiming, and make sure you do this as soon as possible after your diagnosis as there may be a waiting period. You can also nominate your partner or a family member to represent you. Visit the Department of Human Services website for more information www.humanservices.gov.au
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) Safety Net
This is a scheme created by the Australian Government that subsidises the cost of some medications for people who have a Medicare card. It may not cover the entire cost; you will probably have to pay a script fee, however you will pay less if you have a Centrelink Health Care Card.
You can apply for a PBS Safety Net card if you and your family spend $1390 on PBS subsidised medications (the PBS Safety Net threshold). This will make PBS-subsidised medicines less expensive or free for the rest of the calendar year. Talk to your pharmacist or visit the Department of Health and Ageing website at www.health.gov.au for more information. You can also visit the PBS website at www.pbs.gov.au to check whether a medicine is PBS-subsidised.
Medicare Safety Net
If you have to visit a doctor regularly or have frequent tests, the Medicare Safety Net could help with the costs incurred. Like the PBS Safety Net, when you reach the payment threshold ($1,221), doctor visits and tests will cost you less. Services included in the Medicare Safety Net include GP and specialists’ consultations, X-rays, and blood tests, however, costs incurred when you’re in hospital don’t apply. For more information, visit your local Medicare office or visit the Department of Human Services website www.humanservices.gov.au.
Disability Support Pension
If your health prevents you from working more than 15 hours per week, you could be eligible for a fortnightly Disability Support Pension. Visit www.humanservices.gov.au to check whether you can claim this.
If you are employed but cannot work because of your condition, you may be eligible for a fortnightly Sickness Allowance. Visit www.humanservices.gov.au for more info and to check your eligibility.
You can get financial help that goes towards covering the cost of everyday household utilities such as energy and water bills. It is not taxed and is not income or assets tested. You may be eligible for Utilities Allowance if you receive a Disability Support Pension, Partner Allowance, or Widow Allowance. Contact Centrelink or visit the Department of Human Services website www.humanservices.gov.au for more info.
Lymphoedema Compression Garment Subsidies
All states and territories (except Queensland and South Australia) offer help with the cost of lymphoedema compression garments. The schemes are run by states and territory governments, and cover some or all of the cost of compression garments. Talk to your nurse for more information.
Health Care Cards
If you receive certain payments from Centrelink you may be able to get a Health Care Card. If you are eligible, you will be entitled to cheaper medicines and bulk-billing. You may also pay less for utilities, public transport and dental and eye care. If you don’t receive Centrelink payments but are on a low income, you can apply for a Low Income Health Care Card. This gives you the same benefits as a Health Care Card.
External Breast Prosthesis Reimbursement
You can get help with the cost of external breast prosthesis after you’ve undergone breast cancer surgery. You can get up to a maximum of $400 for each prosthesis every two years. Visit www.humanservices.gov.au for more information.
You are eligible for reimbursement if you fit the following criteria:
- you’re enrolled in Medicare
- you’ve had breast surgery as a result of breast cancer
- you haven’t purchased and claimed under this program in the past 2 years
Patient Assisted Travel Scheme (PATS)
This scheme helps provide people in rural areas with financial assistance towards the costs of travelling to and staying near medical services.
Angel Flight Australia
Angel Flight Australia helps provide free flights for people and their carers in medical and financial need who have to travel to and/or from medical facilities anywhere in Australia http://www.angelflight.org.au/
Cancer Council NSW provides direct emergency financial assistance to people affected by cancer who are at a financial disadvantage. Assistance is provided in the form of bill payments for a range of eligible household expenses that don’t stop during treatment, and emergency food and fuel vouchers for transport to treatment.
Assistance is available only once and is limited to $350 per patient. Patients are assessed by Oncology and other Social Workers based in hospitals and cancer treatment centres across NSW. Assistance is only delivered to people who have no other financial options. Find out more and check your eligibility at https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/get-support/legal-and-financial-assistance/emergency-financial-assistance/#6e0RDK2PcmD7mRlO.99
We hope this helps you navigate the world of finance after your diagnosis - the last thing you need is financial worry when you are going through a health crisis, so it’s important to know about all the help you are entitled to. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions and we’ll try our best to answer them.