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Financial constraints lead to missed healthcare appointments among Australians over 50

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New data reveals that nearly half of Australians aged over 50 are skipping regular dental and GP visits due to increasing cost of living pressures.

According to the Australian Seniors survey, 45% of respondents in this age group have missed or reduced visits to dental check-ups (23%), GP appointments (14%), allied health services (13%), and specialist appointments (11%). Additionally, 21% Australians reported purchasing fewer healthy ingredients for meals.

The Cost of Health Report 2023, based on a survey of 1,200 Australians over 50, sheds light on their attitudes towards healthy living, associated costs and the state of the public health system in 2022.

Key findings from the report indicate that unexpected medical costs (61%), specialist doctors (50%), dental check-ups (43%), medicine (34%), and GP appointments (28%) are among the most concerning healthcare expenses for respondents. On average, survey participants estimated spending $1,586 annually on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, amounting to over $14 billion nationwide each year.

Professor Emily Callander, a Health Economist from the University of Technology Sydney, highlighted affordability as a significant issue, with cost being the primary reason for missed appointments. She emphasised that neglecting care among the over 50s may lead to more complex healthcare needs in the future, resulting from preventable conditions.

The survey revealed that 60% of respondents heavily relied on Medicare to cover their health treatments.

Medicare was commonly used for doctor and specialist appointments (90%), diagnostic tests (63%), medication (57%), chronic disease management plans (22%), and mental healthcare plans (15%).

Within the over 50s community, almost half (49%) reported consistently visiting bulk-billing GPs, although they often experienced an average wait time of seven days for appointments.

Seniors residing in rural areas faced additional challenges, with 57% having to travel longer distances to find affordable bulk-billing GPs with acceptable wait times.

The report identified wait times for appointments and treatments (68%), emergency services/paramedics (66%), and the aged care system (63%) as the top concerns among survey respondents.

These findings underscore the need for addressing healthcare accessibility and affordability issues to ensure the well-being of Australians over 50 and the sustainability of the healthcare system as a whole.

Download your free copy of Australian Seniors: Cost of Health Report to find out more.

 
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