QUEZON CITY 4TH DISTRICT Representative Alfred Vargas, principal author of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, has asked the Department of Health (DOH) to immediately release guidelines on how Filipinos can avail of the P620-million Cancer Assistance Fund.
“Dagdag na hirap ang pandemic para sa cancer patients at ang kanilang mga pamilya. Mahirap ang buhay, at hindi lang doble kundi triple ang gastusin ngayon. Bukod pa riyan, ang mga may cancer ay vulnerable rin sa virus. Double, even triple whammy ang tumama sa kanila,” he said.
“The best way to help them is to give them access to the Cancer Assistance Fund,” Vargas added.
In a letter to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Vargas said such guidelines will benefit “ordinary Filipino cancer patients and their families nationwide.”
“Your favorable support for the proper implementation of NICCA, particularly the Cancer Assistance Fund, will institutionalize the government’s support and protection for families who are heavily affected by this public health emergency,” he added.
In their reply dated Ferbruary 18, the DOH, through Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergerie, said the department is “currently developing the administrative order” for the fund’s use.
The letter also said the procurement of “cancer, supportive care, and palliative care medicines using the said fund has already started in January 2021.”
“The portfolio of medicines will cater to various types of cancer such as breast, colorectal, digestive tract, gynecologic, blood, lung, head, neck, thyroid and childhood cancers,” the letter said.
Vargas had first asked the DOH for the status of the guidelines in October last year. In their reply, the DOH said they were still working on the guidelines but that “cancer patients, persons living with cancer and cancer survivors” may be referred to their Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients for financial assistance.
Vargas had earlier urged the health agency to be more active in informing the public about the fund and how patients can avail of it.
The lawmaker had noted that there was an information gap regarding the fund, as he recalled encountering fundraising calls for various cancer patients on social media.
According to Vargas, he sent the letter on behalf of constituents who had also asked him how they could seek assistance from the fund.
“Kaya minarapat na rin nating mag-follow up sa mga detalye, dahil hindi pa natin alam kung paano magagamit ang Cancer Fund,” he added.
Based on the NICCA’s implementing rules and regulations, the Cancer Assistance Fund along with the expanded PhilHealth benefits for cancer would be made available in public and private DOH-licensed cancer care centers.
“DOH and PhilHealth shall prescribe, in consultation with stakeholders, the coverage rates and applicable rules on options to charge co-payment for services rendered beyond the basic or minimum standards of PhilHealth benefits, which shall be included in the contract of the accredited healthcare provider.
Processes to avail of such funding shall be streamlined to ensure timely provision of cancer care,” the IRR provides.
Vargas expressed hope that the DOH would respond to his letter soon.
“Sana may positive response na. Nariyan na ang pondo. Masasayang lang kung hindi magamit dahil walang operational guidelines,” he said.
He also said that he would help spread the word about the fund and other benefits to be derived from the law once the concerned agencies have released all details.
“Makikipagtulungan tayo sa kanila sa pagpapakalat ng impormasyon tungkol sa mga benepisyo ng NICCA at kung paano ito mapapakinabangan ng mga kababayan natin,” the solon said.