Cancer patients 'under siege' from treatment costs

Cancer sufferers are being crippled financially as they fight for survival, according to the Irish Cancer Society.

The Government must reduce the “huge financial strain” on cancer patients and their families in next October's budget, as it outlined its Budget 2020 submission.

Chief executive Averil Power said patients and families were “under siege” from the costs involved with treating the disease.

“Many families suffer a big drop in income when someone gets cancer,” she said. “At the same time, they have to pay for everything from chemotherapy appointments to anti-nausea medication and hospital parking charges.

They find themselves under siege financially while also trying to manage the physical and psychological burden of having cancer.

Patients currently pay up to €1,200 per month for chemotherapy appointments, anti-nausea medication and hospital parking charges.

Marie Moran, who faced inpatient charges when she was diagnosed with breast cancer 32 weeks into her pregnancy in October 2016, said: “It was a massive shock as I was only 36.

“I found myself going from a working person, about to start a family, to being a very ill person and being very uncertain about my future.

“It was such a stressful time for me, physically and emotionally, and to be landed with bills of €80 for each treatment session was a real shock. When bills quickly turned into final notices demanding payments, it caused me so much stress and worry at an already difficult time.

You’re in a very vulnerable situation at an already difficult time when you’re that ill and cancer is a very frightening illness.

In Budget 2020 the Society is calling for:

  • The removal of inpatient charges, which currently cost €80 per visit up to a maximum of €800 a year;
  • A reduction in the Drugs Payment Scheme threshold from €124 a month to €100 for families and €72 for single people;
  • The removal of the prescription charge for medical card holders (currently €2 per item up to a maximum of €20);
  • Reduced hospital parking charges for frequent visitors.
  • According to Ms Power, there is clear public support for such measures. “In a survey recently carried out by Core Research, almost three in four people supported the removal of inpatient charges while six in 10 said the drug payment scheme threshold should be reduced.

    “It also found those on medical cards often don’t take all their medication because they can’t afford prescription charges. More than one in two chose to pay for their child’s medication ahead of their own.

    "Unable to afford essential medicines, such as anti-nausea tablets, patients’ suffer far worse side effects from their cancer treatment than they should. This is incredibly unfair and must be addressed,” she said.

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