The Real Price of Health: Experiences of Out-of-Pocket Costs in Australia



Despite Australia having a universal health insurance scheme, out-of-pocket (OOP) costs for healthcare and medicines remain relatively high. Individual Australians are the third largest contributor to healthcare financing in Australia behind federal, state and territory governments. Much of this spending is directed at general practice care, specialist outpatient services, pharmaceuticals, diagnostic imaging, pathology and allied health services. This has the potential to create barriers to access at the frontlines of the health system, where the greatest gains from prevention and early intervention can be sourced.

Understanding the impact of OOP costs on the day-to-day lives of people with chronic illness, and in relation to their income level, will provide important new knowledge, and an opportunity to improve the equitable financing of health and healthcare in Australia. This study will explore the challenges people experience in managing the affordability of certain health services or medicines. It will also describe the choices that people make, which are reflective of the value they place on aspects of their health and life. This project aims to:
1. Elucidate how OOP costs of healthcare and medicines are experienced by people with chronic illnesses on low, middle, and high incomes.
2. Identify the priorities and preferences of people with chronic illnesses on low, middle and high incomes in relation to managing the OOP costs of healthcare and medicines.
3. Examine and describe the process of consumer engagement in chronic disease research and develop resources to support collaboration between researchers and people living with chronic disease.


This project is funded the Australian Research Council, Discovery Early Career Researcher Award #DE220100663, The Real Price of Health: Experiences of Out-of-Pocket Costs in Australia.

Project Team

Project team 
Principle Investigator

Associate Researchers

Associate Professor Jane Desborough

Dr Danielle Butler


Professor Rosemary Korda

Other Team Members

Ms Hse Di (Sadie) Law

Ms Kamania Butler (Lived experience expert)

Dr Anne Parkinson

Dr Vanessa Fanning (Lived experience expert)

Ms Shelley Wang

Ms Fiona Hodson (Chronic Pain Australia)


Dr Elisabeth Huynh (Health economist)


Ms Samar Ibrahim (Cultural Advisor)

Ms Jillian Kingsford Smith (Research Officer)  

Ms Julie Veitch (Lived experience expert)


Ms Leanne Watts (Lived experience expert)


Ms Mingming Zhou (PhD candidate)



The Real Price of Health research project is overseen by an Advisory Board, comprised of:
  • Professor Michael Kidd—Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Australian Government Department of Health
  • Mr Charles Maskell-Knight (health policy expert)
  • Ms Sandie McGavin (lived experience expert)
  • Ms Nadia Owuor (Health Care Consumer Association, ACT)