Health-related out-of-pocket expenses for children living with rare diseases - tuberous sclerosis and mitochondrial disorders: A prospective pilot study in Australian families

J Paediatr Child Health. 2022 Apr;58(4):611-617. doi: 10.1111/jpc.15784. Epub 2021 Oct 27.


Aim: We aimed to describe health-related out-of-pocket (OOP) expenses incurred by Australian families living with children with chronic and complex diseases.

Methods: A prospective pilot study of OOP expenses in families with children with tuberous sclerosis (TS) or mitochondrial disorders (MD) in 2016-2017. An initial survey assessed the family's financial situation, child's health functioning and estimated previous 6 months' and lifetime OOP expenses. Thereafter, families completed a survey each month for 6 months, prospectively tracking OOP expenses.

Results: Initial surveys were completed by 13 families with 15 children; median age 7 years (range: 1-12); 5 with MD, 10 with TS. All families reported OOP expenses: 38% paid $2000 per annum, more than double the annual per-capita OOP costs reported for Australia by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Eight families estimated $5000-$25 000 in OOP expenses over their child's lifetime and 62% of mothers reduced or stopped work due to caring responsibilities. Eleven families paid annual private health insurance premiums of $2000-$5122, but 72% said this was poor value-for-money. Prospective tracking by eight families (9 children) identified the median OOP expenditure was $863 (range $55-$1398) per family for 6 months. OOP spending was associated with visits to allied health professionals, non-prescription medicines, special foods, supplements and disposable items. Eight families paid for 91 prescription medications over 6 months.

Conclusion: All families caring for children with TS or MD reported OOP expenses. A larger study is needed to explore the affordability of health care for children living with a broader range of chronic diseases.

Keywords: health expenditure; mitochondrial disease; rare disease; tuberous sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Health Expenditures
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mitochondrial Diseases*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rare Diseases
  • Tuberous Sclerosis*