The government announced on Friday it will invest $32.6 million so breast cancer patients can have life-saving scans covered under Medicare, saving them as much as $1,500 per scan.
The two new Medicare items for MRI of the breast will be available from November 1, giving patients more accurate diagnosis and treatment options for breast cancer. MRI scans give health professionals a detailed view of the soft tissues within the body and are typically used to monitor cancer and other health issues or injuries.
At present, patients are paying up to $1,500 per scan, but they will be subsidised by Medicare from November to help patients with pre-surgical planning and to give them better treatment options. Around 14,000 patients are year are expected to benefit from the rebate – something Studio 10 star Kerri-Anne Kennerley has campaigned for since 2012.
Kennerley was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 when there was no rebate or free MRIs on offer for her or thousands of other women.
“A week before the surgery my surgeon said, ‘If you can afford it, get an MRI’. Luckily I did,” she told her co-hosts on Friday’s edition of the hit show. “They found a second tumour which was not diagnosed through mammogram or ultrasound. If I’d gone into surgery without that plan, without the advantage of an MRI, you would have had a very different surgical result.”
The former Good Morning Australia star said she didn’t think it was fair that women who were about to undergo surgery wouldn’t be able to get a bit of money back. She recalled paying $850 and added that PET scans are also encouraged for women with more serious cases of cancer.
The government also announced these scans, where a computer takes an image of the whole body to manage and plan treatment for advanced breast cancer patients, would also be listed as a Medicare Item from November 1.
This will save an average of 10,000 Australian patients per year up to $1,000 per scan.
“It is just ridiculous that women could not get a rebate and now they’ve done it, congratulations,” Kennerley said of the announcement. She also vented her frustration that the government gave men with potential prostate cancer free MRI scans from 2018, but not women.
“How could you not let women have an MRI but let blokes have it? That was disgraceful,” she added. “But I’m glad they’ve all seen the light of day. This is very important for women.”
Minister for Health Greg Hunt earlier released a statement explaining the government was committed to helping Australians with breast cancer.
“I want to ensure we support Australians diagnosed with breast cancer by reducing out of pockets costs and ensure their diagnosis and treatment is supported by the most contemporary scans,” Hunt said. “Our commitment to Medicare remains rock solid. It is a cornerstone of our universal health system and a key pillar in our long-term health plan.”
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