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Last Updated on 7 October 2019

Health Insurance and Terminal Illness: What You Need to Know

Nearly 144,000 people die each year in Australia. Many of these people have terminal illnesses that cannot be cured by modern science. Palliative care can help patients with terminal illness by providing support and medication to improve the quality of life during a terminal illness. Palliative care is covered under health insurance as a part of the hospital cover.

Image by Stephen Dickter

What Does Health Insurance Cover?

Most palliative care services can be provided at no cost to the patient, although there may be some costs around hospice and hospital care.

Some people elect to have private health insurance too. Private health insurance may provide admittance to a private hospital, which includes medical tests, procedures and specialists. If you receive help at home, an at-home nursing staff will be provided 24 hours per day.

Medicare will pay some of the total expenses according to the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). Your private health insurance can pay some or all of the rest to cover the gap. Anything charged above the gap will become the patient’s responsibility.

Patients should remain cognizant of the number of bills involved with palliative care. Each specialist will have their own bill. For instance, if you are seeing a radiologist, a pathologist or another type of specialist, each health care professional will bill the patient separately. Chemotherapy, physiotherapy, massage and acupuncture may also be billed separately.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is simply a form of care that helps people facing terminal illness. The care is aimed to support patients. However, palliative care is in no way designed to extend the life of the patient or decrease the life span of a patient. The goal is to make a person with a terminal illness more comfortable.

Controlled medication may be administered to help patients alleviate the symptoms of nausea, pain and shortness of breath. All care will be focused on preventing unnecessary suffering. Patients that are in the late stages of cancer or other terminal illnesses need the maximum amount of support and treatment available.

Palliative care may range from weeks to years depending upon the nature of the illness. Palliative care may be used in conjunction with medication aimed at curing the illness. When in palliative care, doctors may still be working to save the patient’s life.

In palliative care, the family and friends that are supporting the patient may also receive support. This will help provide better care to the patient that is suffering. Counseling and bereavement services are also available for the patient’s family and friends.

The Patient’s Care Team

A special team of oncologists, cardiologists or other specialists will be added to the patient’s team to provide the best care possible. The patient will also have access to pharmacists, counsellors, social workers, therapists and pastoral care workers. The patient will have access to all of these individuals while at home, in hospital or at an aged care facility.

Depending upon the patient’s condition and the stage of their illness, they can move between these settings as needed. Palliative care is designed to provide the best care to the patient regardless of location. Attention to environment improves the comfort level of the patient.

If you have a terminal illness, there are many options available that will help to make your condition more manageable. Luckily, the government subsidies will cover the majority of the expenses related to terminal illness, including palliative care. Consider your options for terminal illness health insurance to alleviate some of the expenses.

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

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

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