JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Shana Miller breathed a sigh of relief in August when she heard that the National Health Fund (NHF) would be doubling its subsidy on drugs for children on September 1.
  • Her regular existence had been disrupted about six months before, when her daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy.
  • According to Miss Miller, she has been getting her daughter’s medication with minimal stress and hassle since getting the NHF card.

Shana Miller breathed a sigh of relief in August when she heard that the National Health Fund (NHF) would be doubling its subsidy on drugs for children on September 1.

Her regular existence had been disrupted about six months before, when her daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy.

Since then, the 13-year-old has been on medication costing some $10,000 per month.

“When I first heard about my child’s diagnosis I was depressed because I thought about the money, I thought about the time and I thought about everything that it would take to take care of her,” Miss Miller tells JIS News.

“The first month that I had to purchase her medication, she was on a graduated scale, so she started small and the dosage would be increased every week. I had to buy the medication weekly because I couldn’t afford to buy it all at once. The amount moved up during that month from $1,200 one week to $2,000 the next and it kept increasing until it got to the scale that she was using,” she adds.

Miss Miller says that after a month of doing that, she was very stressed because of the amount of money she had to spend.

“It was not something that I had budgeted for, so when I went back to get medication and I was introduced to the NHF card and realised the difference it would make, it was a great relief for me,” she tells JIS News with a smile.

According to Miss Miller, she has been getting her daughter’s medication with minimal stress and hassle since getting the NHF card.

“I was so elated when I learned of the increase that took effect on September 1. I know that I will still be required to pay a minimal amount, but I am very pleased about how much I will be saving, because that will go towards other things,” she says.

Miss Miller explains that she has to take her daughter to see a doctor each time she has a seizure and she makes use of the public health facilities, because that is what she can afford.

The mother of three says that having to pay less for the medication has relieved some of the stress, so she can focus more on managing the seizures and not so much on the money.

She tells JIS News that the NHF card offers a great benefit to any parent with a child that is afflicted with a critical illness, and urges parents to avail themselves of it.

“I would encourage anyone who has a child with one of the sixteen critical illness covered under the programme to sign up for the NHF health card. You should really take advantage of that benefit. The savings that you will realise will be phenomenal,” Miss Miller says.

With the endorsement of the Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, the NHF announced in August that it would be doubling the subsidy on drugs for children from birth to 18 years.

The NHF Chairman, Christopher Zacca, explains that the reason for the increase in subsidy is to give well-needed support to one of the most vulnerable groups in society (children), who do not have the wherewithal to combat the onset of critical illnesses.

“The reason we decided to double the subsidy is that children can’t work to earn to pay for the drugs that their illness requires and some families that we found on our programme have more than one child with a chronic illness, so it is a huge burden for families. We felt that it was important that we increase the benefit to children and we have done so,” he tells JIS News.

The NHF is a major funder of public health in Jamaica, with the provision of drugs being its most critical responsibility. More than $5 billion worth of drugs is delivered annually to the public sector.