State Labor’s plan to scrap the chemotherapy co-payment has been welcomed by Cancer Council NSW South Region spokeswoman Tina Hunt.
Ms Hunt said abolishing the co-payment was one of five issues Cancer Council NSW had identified in its statewide campaign, Saving Life: Vision for Change.
She welcomed Keira MP Ryan Park’s announcement on Monday that the co-payment for the life-saving treatment would be abolished if Labor won this month’s state election.
The shadow minister for the Illawarra said a Labor government would provide $6.2 million to ensure that chemotherapy was free to all cancer patients in NSW public hospitals.
“It is heartening to see political parties acknowledge the financial burden on cancer patients, and recognise the role that state government can play in helping patients and carers at a difficult time in their lives,” Ms Hunt said.
“We know that some cancer patients can pay up to $180 in co-payment fees for their initial chemotherapy treatment and may be charged even more for further treatment.
“Removing this financial cost will help ease the burden for cancer patients and their families.”
Ms Hunt said over the past seven months Cancer Council supporters had held over 100 meetings with local MPs and candidates about the five issues where state government action would make the most difference to cancer.
Mr Park said the chemotherapy co-payment was introduced by the state’s Liberal-National Government in 2012, and NSW was the only state where it existed.
He said the co-payment was required for the first prescription of each chemotherapy drug. As the first round of chemotherapy could involve four or five separate drugs, it was common for patients to pay around $180 for their first treatment.
If the treatment program changed and new chemotherapy medicines were prescribed, patients must then pay another co-payment, on top of other medical costs.
“It is a critical thing that people who are going through chemotherapy don’t need any additional stress, particularly financial stress, as they are battling what is a very traumatic disease,” Mr Park said.
“We want to make sure that patients – their families and loved ones – are not hit with additional payments and bills for this necessary treatment.”
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said co-payments for drugs dispensed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme were the policy responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, which introduced co-payments in 1960.
However, Ms Skinner said the NSW government was considering options regarding the removal of co-payments for all public hospital outpatients across a number of diseases, including cancer.
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