JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Beneficiaries of the National Health Fund (NHF) now have access to over 800 prescription items, as the NHF has substantially increased the number of drugs it provides for its cardholders.
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NHF, Rae Barrett, has announced that beginning next Monday, November 1, the Fund would cover more than 800 items, up from the 500 drugs that were formerly approved for beneficiaries
  • Mr. Barrett's announcement came at a media luncheon, held at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston, yesterday (October 28).

Beneficiaries of the National Health Fund (NHF) now have access to over 800 prescription items, as the NHF has substantially increased the number of drugs it provides for its cardholders.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NHF, Rae Barrett, has announced that beginning next Monday, November 1, the Fund would cover more than 800 items, up from the 500 drugs that were formerly approved for beneficiaries.

Mr. Barrett’s announcement came at a media luncheon, held at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston, yesterday (October 28).

“When the initial list we have been using for individual benefits was developed, it was based on the various classes of drugs that were deemed appropriate for treatment of each of the conditions covered. However, not all of the drug items that were included or available in a particular class were included on a NHF list, [so this] is the addition of items which previously were not included,” he pointed out.

The inclusion of more drugs, Mr. Barrett noted, is expected to provide wider access and availability of prescription medication to persons who suffer from chronic illnesses.

The NHF assists all Jamaicans, resident in the country and suffering from chronic illnesses, to meet the high cost of filling their prescriptions. The specified illnesses that are covered include, arthritis, asthma, breast cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, glaucoma, high cholesterol, hypertension, ischaemic heart disease, major depression, prostate cancer, psychosis, rheumatic fever heart disease, and vascular disease.

Turning to the NHF’s subsidy, Mr. Barrett told members of the media it was “one of the vexed issues that sometimes arises” from members of the public.

He advised that while the NHF card is treated similarly to a private health insurance card, “whereas somebody who has private health insurance card will have a particular percentage of the cost paid, that is not how the NHF card works”.

“The NHF is a form of social insurance and so what we do is to pay a subsidy and this is determined relative to what is the best available price for the particular type of drug,” he pointed out.

He suggested that as pharmacies existed in a market system, NHF cardholders should exercise their options and “shop around” for the best price.

“We use this best available price as a reference and that is the basis on which the subsidy is determined,” Mr. Barrett added.

He noted that the NHF has raised the minimum subsidy from 35 per cent to 50 per cent in a patient’s cost, “and what we are now applying is a subsidy computation based on the weighted average price that we have experienced since we started operations [in 2003]”.

The NHF is partly funded through National Insurance Scheme (NIS) contributions, which was increased by 2.5 per cent on October 1 last year. It was projected that $442 million should come to the Fund from this measure, while an additional $491 million is expected for the 2004/05 budget year.