One out of every two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.
Think about that for a moment.
One in two of us. If that’s not you, it’s someone you love.
One way or another, cancer touches all our lives.
Yet what a lot of people don’t realise is how expensive the treatment can be.
Unless you’ve been through it yourself, you might not realise that all those essential scans and tests and appointments with specialists aren’t necessarily covered by Medicare.
Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, yet most people pay more than $5000 for the first two years of their treatment. One in four women who are diagnosed with breast cancer pay more than $10,000 for two years of scans and tests.
Some men diagnosed with prostate cancer are paying more than $18,000.
If you live in the bush, there are all the added costs of travel and accommodation. And often you’re so sick that you’re just not physically able to work, so there’s no money coming in.
Cancer makes you sick but it shouldn’t make you poor.
That’s why I’ve put forward Labor’s $2.3 billion Medicare Cancer Plan.
In the next four years, it will mean up to six million free scans and tests and three million free appointments with specialists.
Simply put, we are going to reduce the out-of-pocket costs of cancer treatment from hundreds and thousands of dollars all the way down to zero.
Yesterday, we announced another key part of our plan to help people with cancer.
We’re going to put in $500 million to slash the waiting times for lifesaving cancer surgery and treatment in Australia’s public hospitals.
Here in Victoria, cancer patients wait 11 days for an “urgent” consultation and 31 days for a “routine” consultation. Some people have to wait for three months.
The waiting times for colonoscopies, surgeries, biopsies, hysterectomies and removing skin lesions are all longer than the medical experts and the clinical guidelines recommend.
This is the case not just in Victoria, but right around the country. The fact is that too many seriously ill people are waiting too long for vital procedures. Here’s the brutal truth. You can’t outwait cancer. If surgery is late, sometimes it’s too late.
With our blitz on waiting lists for public hospitals, fewer people will need to see private specialists for their cancer treatment.
And our plan for millions of free scans and tests will mean that if you do need to see a private oncologist or get a mammogram or MRI at a private clinic, from now on, you’ll be fully covered by Medicare.
We can overcomplicate politics sometimes, especially in election campaigns where there’s a lot of heat and noise and nonsense going around.
But for me, it’s pretty simple. What matters is your family and your health; everything else flows on from that — and that’s what our plan for the future is all about.
At this election, I can promise that if you, or someone you love, is diagnosed with cancer, we’ll make sure you can get the best possible care at the lowest possible cost.
That’s our promise to all Australians: no matter what part of the health system you’re in, no matter where you live, no matter how much money you’ve got in the bank.
If you are in the fight of your life, a Labor government will be by your side every step of the way.