Out-of-pocket medical expenses compared across five years for patients with one of five common cancers in Australia

Astrid J. Rodriguez-Acevedo, Raymond J. Chan, Catherine M. Olsen, Nirmala Pandeya, David C. Whiteman, Louisa G. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Patient medical out-of-pocket expenses are thought to be rising worldwide yet data describing trends over time is scant. We evaluated trends of out-of-pocket expenses for patients in Australia with one of five major cancers in the first-year after diagnosis. Methods: Participants from the QSKIN Sun and Health prospective cohort Study with a histologically confirmed breast, colorectal, lung, melanoma, or prostate cancer diagnosed between 2011 and 2015 were included (n = 1965). Medicare claims data on out-of-pocket expenses were analysed using a two-part model adjusted for year of diagnosis, health insurance status, age and education level. Fisher price and quantity indexes were also calculated to assess prices and volumes separately. Results: On average, patients with cancer diagnosed in 2015 spent 70% more out-of-pocket on direct medical expenses than those diagnosed in 2011. Out-of-pocket expenses increased significantly for patients with breast cancer (mean AU$2513 in 2011 to AU$6802 in 2015). Out-of-pocket expenses were higher overall for individuals with private health insurance. For prostate cancer, expenses increased for those without private health insurance over time (mean AU$1586 in 2011 to AU$4748 in 2014) and remained stable for those with private health insurance (AU$4397 in 2011 to AU$5623 in 2015). There were progressive increases in prices and quantities of medical services for patients with melanoma, breast and lung cancer. For all cancers, prices increased for medicines and doctor attendances but fluctuated for other medical services. Conclusion: Out-of-pocket expenses for patients with cancer have increased substantially over time. Such increases were more pronounced for women with breast cancer and those without private health insurance. Increased out-of-pocket expenses arose from both higher prices and higher volumes of health services but differ by cancer type. Further efforts to monitor patient out-of-pocket costs and prevent health inequities are required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1055
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer
  • Out-of-pocket medical costs
  • Population-based
  • Private health insurance


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