Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Long-term illness and finances

8-minute read

After a diagnosis of long-term, or chronic illness, there may be a few practical things to think about. You may need to consider the costs of treatment and support. In turn, you may then need to think about factors such as:

  • travel and accommodation costs
  • childcare costs
  • if you can work while receiving treatment

If you are in hospital, or if you can’t work, this can have a financial impact. You may be worried about your family, and how they will cope with this.

Worrying about practical issues can affect the way you feel. It is important to think about these issues, and learn about available support.

What is the cost of treatment?

If you have a chronic illness, as part of your treatment you may need to:

  • take medication
  • use medical equipment
  • receive therapy
  • attend specialist appointments

The cost of your treatment will depend upon a few factors, including if you:

  • are treated in the public or private system
  • are working and have to take time off
  • live in a rural area and need to travel for treatment
  • have private health insurance

Prior to treatment, you should ask your doctor about their fees.

Speak with your nurse or another member of your healthcare team about access to a social worker or welfare worker. A social worker can give you information about what financial and practical support services are available for you.

Some treatments for your illness may be covered (or partly covered) by Medicare. These can include:

  • specialist appointments
  • scans
  • surgeries

Medicines that are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, are available to you at a cheaper price.

If you need to use special medical equipment, you can also receive support to:

  • acquire the equipment
  • run the medical equipment

For this support, you can contact Services Australia.

Talk to your local Medicare office about the 'safety net' on costs of medications and medical bills.

You may also be eligible to apply for the JobSeeker payment. This may be useful if you can’t work or study for a while because of illness. This can help you afford treatments.

Clinical trials

A clinical trial is a research study on humans. Joining a clinical trial can give you access to new medicines and treatments before they are available to others. If you participate in a clinical trial, your expenses may be covered.

Not everyone is suitable for a clinical trial. You can visit the Australian Clinical Trials website to find out more about clinical trials. You can check if any available trials are testing treatment for your illness.

What government-assisted travel schemes are available?

You may need to travel for treatment in a hospital far away from home. You may be able to get help with the cost of accommodation and travel.

Each state and territory has a government-funded scheme. These schemes help patients who have to travel long distances to obtain specialist treatment that is not available locally. You can contact the scheme in your state or territory:

Can I work with a long-term illness?

Deciding whether you continue working will depend on your health, financial situation, and priorities. If you are feeling well, you may find that continuing to work is helpful. Some people feel they want to make changes in their work life, such as:

  • working part-time or flexible hours
  • leaving work to spend time doing things they enjoy, or have always wanted to do
  • changing their career
  • doing volunteer work

If you have a chronic illness, you can receive support outside of family and friends. If you feel you need support to make decisions about your work, talk to your doctor. They can refer you to a health professional who is experienced in counselling.

A discussion with your personnel manager or supervisor early after your return to work will be useful in understanding expectations.

Tips for returning to work

  • Plan how and who to tell about your work arrangements.
  • Give your work as much notice as possible if you need to take leave.
  • Explore options for part-time work or flexible hours.
  • Ask for leave before you feel tired or burnt out.
  • Keep records of your work hours
  • Keep records of discussions or correspondence with your supervisor or manager.

How do I manage my life with a long-term illness?

Chronic illnesses, both physical and mental, can affect the way you live. It can be a financial burden if you are unwell, or if you are caring for someone with an illness.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to get assistance with childcare, meals, and general home help.

If you have a long-term illness, you may have access to assistance with living expenses, such as:

  • child disability assistance payment
  • disability support pension
  • mobility allowance
  • rent assistance
  • telephone allowance

If you care for someone with a chronic illness, you may be eligible for financial assistance. This may include a carer allowance.

More information can be found on the Services Australia website.

How do I manage my finances with a long-term illness?

If you are diagnosed with a long-term illness, it is a good idea to plan your budget early.

You can talk to a trained financial advisor about your options for managing treatment costs, which can include:

  • accessing your superannuation early
  • accessing insurance payments

More information

Sources of support include:

  • financial planner or financial counsellor
  • Centrelink
  • church/religious or volunteer groups
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs
  • meals-on-wheels
  • occupational therapist for practical advice and aids
  • palliative care team to help with pain
  • physiotherapist to help with mobility and exercises
  • private nursing agencies
  • social worker at your hospital
  • your community/district nurse
  • your GP
  • your local council

You can also find financial resources and assistance specific for your illness. You may contact different organisations about support for:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2022


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Chronic conditions | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

Chronic conditions are the leading cause of illness, disability and death in Australia. Common chronic conditions include cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Find out what we’re doing to prevent and manage chronic conditions in Australia.

Read more on Department of Health and Aged Care website

Financial Assistance for Children with Cancer Australia - Redkite

Cancer brings unexpected costs for families. Redkite is here provide financial assistance for everyday expenses like bills, groceries, and more.

Read more on Redkite website

Practical and financial assistance | Cancer Council

We can help lighten the financial burden and logistical worries that cancer can bring. Find help with local transport, accommodation and financial costs here.

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Financial Assistance for Funerals & Bereavement Australia - Redkite

You shouldn't have to think about funeral expenses when your child dies from cancer. That's why Redkite provides financial assistance of up to $1500 towards the cost.

Read more on Redkite website

Practical and financial assistance in the NT | Cancer Council

Learn about our national Pro Bono Program that can connect you with a lawyer, financial planner, accountant or HR/recruitment professional who can help

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Cancer treatment | Cancer Council

Treatment for cancer can have different benefits and risks involved. Here is an overview of cancer treatments that are most commonly considered

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Transport services for cancer treatment | Cancer Council

Our dedicated drivers are transporting people to vital cancer treatment. Find out more about transport services to cancer treatment near you

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Exercise and cancer: Overview - Cancer Council Victoria

Understand the importance of exercise, and the benefits of exercise during and after cancer treatment, including tips and example exercise techniques.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Having advanced cancer | Cancer Institute NSW

It is important to understand what having advanced cancer means for you, and what your options are.

Read more on Cancer Institute NSW website

What will I have to pay for treatment? | Cancer Council

Find information about out-of-pocket costs and informed financial consent for people with cancer and for those caring for someone with cancer

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.