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Compare Health Insurance for Palliative Care

Sally Aquire March 31st, 2012 0 comments
Health insurance and palliative care

Every year, thousands of Australians are diagnosed with a terminal illness. If this happens to you, you’ll be glad to know that you do not have to suffer alone. You can receive support and treatment through palliative care.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care supports sufferers of terminal illnesses. As the condition is unlikely to be cured, the focus is on easing pain and managing symptoms. It aims to maintain quality of life throughout the illness.

You can receive palliative care at any stage in your treatment. Contrary to popular belief, it is not only given in the final stages. Support can also be given to carers and family members to prepare for the inevitable. For example, counselling and bereavement support is offered.

Image by Dina-Roberts Wakulczyk

Who is involved in palliative care?

Multiple health professionals may be involved in your care. This may involve GPs, specialists, palliative care doctors and nurses, social workers, pharmacists, counsellors and complementary therapists. Your GP can refer you to a palliative care team.

Where does palliative care take place?

Patients can receive treatment at home but it may also take place elsewhere. For example, it may happen at hospitals, nursing home and palliative care centres.

Can Medicare help?

Medicare covers palliative care in public hospitals and hospices. Many of the drugs used in palliative care are on the PBS. You may also be able to receive allied health services through the Chronic Disease Management program. To qualify, you must have been suffering from a chronic or terminal illness for at least six months. This condition must require complex care from your GP and at least two other healthcare professionals. Speak to your GP about for more details as he or she must refer you.

What about private health insurance?

There are a few reasons why you may choose to compare health insurance for palliative care. You may want the option of being treated as a private patient in hospital, for example. Private health insurance may also cover hiring medical equipment to use at home, nursing, and 24-7 home nursing. Depending on your policy, health insurance may also cover extras. This may include physiotherapy, acupuncture and remedial massage to help with treatment.

If you wish to be treated at home or in a private hospital, you may incur out-of-pocket costs if you do not have private health insurance. There also be out-of-pocket costs if you are receiving outpatient chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

Some of the costs of being a private patient will be covered through the National Palliative Care Program. This will cover 75% of the MBS fee for being admitted to a private hospital. Your health fund can cover the remaining 25%. There may be out-of-pocket costs to cover if your doctor charges above the MBS fee. However, some health funds have ‘no gap’ agreements with doctors to minimise this.

Be sure to compare health funds when looking for palliative care. Some health insurance policies will restrict or exclude it. If you do not have adequate levels of coverage, you may not be covered. It is vital that you don’t forget to compare health insurance to ensure that whatever cover you choose suits your needs.

Palliative care can be a crucial issue in terminal illness. The Australian government will cover a lot of the costs, but not necessarily everything. Health insurance can be useful if you want to be treated privately, for example. Remember to compare health funds as not all policies will cover palliative care.

Disclaimer: The above information is correct and current at the time of publication.

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