Five health conditions added to NHF card

FIVE medical conditions have been added to the National Health Fund (NHF), bringing to 22 the number of ailments for which Jamaicans can now access subsidised medication and treatment in the public and private health sectors.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton told a news conference at Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday that colorectal and lung cancer, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, and thyroid disease are the five conditions for which up to 50,000 citizens will be able to use their NHF cards.

Approximately $450 million was committed to the initiative and the NHF card will offer subsidies across 460 pharmacies.

“The addition of these five conditions will see 10 new active pharmaceutical ingredients become available to the NHF programme for the treatment of the diseases,” Tufton said.

He described the addition of the conditions as timely and significant, reminding Jamaicans that cancer is the second-leading cause of death in Jamaica and is a growing problem among other noncommunicable diseases in the country.

“Data from the 2020 Global Cancer Observatory lists colorectal (otherwise called colon cancer), lung cancer, and multiple myeloma among the top 10 cancers in the country. As the third-leading cancer among the population, colon cancer affects some 11 per cent of the population, with over 700 new cases recorded in 2020. At the same time, more than 500 people, or just about 7.5 per cent of Jamaicans, were diagnosed with lung cancer,” Tufton noted.

He added that multiple myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer, led to more than 100 deaths, with a death rate of 2.9 per cent in 2020.

The NHF card helps registered patients affected by any of the 22 health conditions covered to pay for a select list of prescribed drugs, devices, and required tests — through participating pharmacies or doctors’ offices — as it covers a fixed amount of the total cost.

“The National Health Fund’s Individual Benefits Programme provides subsidies for three main categories of benefits for Jamaican residents enrolled. Currently, subsidies are provided for medication to treat and manage 17 chronic diseases, medical supplies and devices for diabetes and asthma, and for three diagnostic tests,” Tufton explained.

He added that approximately 350,000 Jamaicans currently depend on the NHF programme for care.