By Hannah Torregoza
Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara today urged the government to take decisive action to correct the disparity in cancer treatment for rich and poor cancer patients given the high cost of care and medication in the Philippines.
Angara said such decisive action must take the form of increased access to drugs for cancer treatment and expanded coverage for preventive and diagnostic services.
“It is high time the government comes up with an integrated and comprehensive approach to bridge the divide between rich and poor cancer patients,” Angara said.
“We need to develop a system in which all people with cancer have access to high-quality and affordable cancer treatments,” he added.
The senator noted that many of the medical advances in cancer treatment, particularly chemotherapy, come at a high cost.
Chemotherapy is one of the most expensive parts of the treatment. On top of this, he said cancer treatment includes visits to the doctor, radiation treatments, imaging tests like X-rays and MRIs, hospital stays, surgery and home care.
“Treating cancer isn’t cheap. The average cost for a year’s worth of treatment could run into hundreds of thousands to millions of pesos,” Angara lamented.
Given the high cost, Angara noted that people already in the advanced stage choose to forego treatment while other cancer patients and their families use up all or most of their savings to pay for the cost.
That is why, he said, the Senate should approve Senate Bill 1570, or the proposed National Integrated Cancer Control Act, which seeks to make cancer treatment and care more equitable and affordable for all Filipinos that he earlier filed.
The bill proposes the establishment of a P30-billion cancer assistance fund to support the medical and treatment assistance program for cancer patients, especially those who belong to the most vulnerable sectors of society.
The bill also seeks to expand the current benefits of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or PhilHealth to include screening, detection, diagnosis, treatment assistance, palliative and supportive care, survivorship follow-up care and rehabilitation.
“This should cover all types and stages of cancer of patients regardless of age,” he said.
“Cancer is a complex and catastrophic disease which is an urgent public health concern. That’s why is important that we institutionalize a systematic, well-organized, well-coordinated, well-funded, patient- and family-centered integrated cancer control programs at all levels of the existing health care delivery system,” Angara stressed.
The lawmaker said the bill aims to lower overall mortality and impact of all adult and childhood cancers, decrease incidence of preventable cancer in adults, and prevent cancer relapse and recurrence and secondary cancers among people living with cancers and survivors.
If passed into law, the amount necessary to implement its provisions during the first year would be charged against the annual appropriations of the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The succeeding budget, he said, will come from the 10-percent of incremental revenues from the excise tax revenues on alcohol products the government collects pursuant to Republic Act 10351 or the Sin Tax Law, among other tax revenues.