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Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman is urging more Jamaicans to take advantage of the benefits offered by the National Health Fund (NHF). Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House yesterday (Feb. 6) Senator Whiteman said that the NHF estimated that it was now treating about 24 per cent of persons in Jamaica, who suffered from chronic diseases on its schedule.
“That not withstanding, it has established that over 92 per cent of the population are aware of the Fund, but there is a gap between awareness of the Health Fund, and actual use of the Fund,” he said.
Minister Whiteman noted that one of the challenges was to get people to understand that being a beneficiary was not limited by age, as the Fund was established to benefit persons of all ages as long as they had one of the conditions for which it provided support. “Secondly, it is not prescribed by your income. It is for all persons,” he emphasized.
Senator Whiteman pointed out that Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, while commending the management of the Fund and the progress that it had made, said that there was “still a need for more aggressive communication of what the Fund is achieving and what benefits are available”.
Meanwhile, Senator Whiteman said the NHF wanted to move to the next stage of health care, “in that, while at the present time the Fund provides individual benefits, individual support, institutional support and promotion of healthy lifestyles, it wants to make the link now between treating persons, who have chronic diseases, by giving them assistance with the purchase of their medication, to having some input in the treatment”.
To this end, he informed, the NHF was developing databases, which would provide information about patients in case of emergencies. This system of basic records of those who subscribe to the Fund, will help doctors to improve the clinical management of patients and provide better emergency care.
For example, the Minister explained, “if you have an NHF card and you are in an emergency, and you are rushed to the hospital, they can swipe your card and get your basic information if you are unconscious, so that they can begin to treat you.”
Therefore, he said, “it (the NHF) is making another link between the medication, which is provided for by way of very generous subsidies and the actual treatment of cases”.
Presently, the Fund has more than 200,000 beneficiaries. It pays all claims received in the previous week, by the Thursday of the following week, so that no one has a claim outstanding for more than 10 days.
In November of last year the Fund increased the subsidy for drugs on the NHF Individual Benefits Drug List to 80 per cent of the reference price of these drugs. Chief Executive Officer of the NHF, Rae Barrett said the increase would “further reduce the burden of treating chronic diseases to NHF beneficiaries and their families.”
All residents of Jamaica regardless of age, income or health status, suffering from any of the chronic diseases covered by the NHF are eligible to enroll for benefits on the NHF card. The 15 diseases are: arthritis, asthma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, enlarged prostate, major depression, psychosis, glaucoma, high cholesterol, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, rheumatic heart disease and vascular disease.