Friday 5 June, 2020

$340 million in NHF subsidies for Jamaicans battling lupus

iStock photo

iStock photo

There is good news for the estimated 6,000 Jamaicans who suffer from the debilitating autoimmune disease lupus, as their condition will now be covered by the National Health Fund (NHF).

The announcement was made on Tuesday by Prime Minister Andrew Holness as he made his contribution to the 2019/2020 Budget Debate. He noted that the disease affects more females than males.

The prime minister said the coverage by the NHF will be in the region of $340 million annually.

“This is expected to reduce the impact of this life-threatening disease and improve patients' quality of life, through improved access to medication,” Holness told the House of Representatives.

Holness spoke to the cases of several women, including a 23-year-old graduate of the Norman Manley Law School who was battling lupus.

In the case of the young woman, he said she was forced to find between $50,000 and $60,000 per month, depending on the medication she was prescribed by her doctor.

The prime minister pointed out that the NHF, over its 15-year existence, has provided some $30 billion in subsidies for pharmaceuticals to NHF cardholders living with 16 chronic illnesses.

“Mr Speaker, I’m happy to announce that the NHF will be adding lupus to the list of conditions covered by the NHF card and this will take effect on April 30 2019,” Holness said.

He said the decision was taken after discussions with the Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton and after careful examination of the budget to ensure it was sustainable and not some political giveaway to score political points.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. This results in symptoms such as inflammation, swelling, and damage to joints, skin, kidneys, blood, the heart, and lungs.

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