There’s a way to afford the expensive medication and procedures.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer accounts for 8.2 million deaths globally. It’s also the third leading cause of death in the Philippines, next to heart attack and stroke. Nine people are diagnosed with cancer every hour, based on recent data from the Department of Health (DOH) and Philippine Cancer Society.
Early detection increases one’s chances of survival, but not everyone is lucky to have been able to diagnose cancer in its early stages. Even worse, cancer treatment comes with a hefty price tag—something that can leave you financially incapacitated in the long run.
Tens of thousands
Ellen Tordesillas, a veteran journalist and columnist, had her cancer treatment in 2006, before human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) Gardasil was approved by the US FDA. As part of her chemotherapy treatment, she was given prescription for different medicines, namely: Paclitaxel, a drug used to treat ovarian, breast, lung, and other types of cancer; and Filgrastim, an injectable drug that helps produce more white blood cells. In a blog post, she notes that she had spent the following on her chemotherapy:
- Taxol (Paclitaxel) – P42,000 per session
- Granulokine (Filgrastim) – P7,000 per 300mg vial
- Abdominal CT scan – P23,000 per procedure
- Other expenses (room, professional fee, etc.) – P36,000 per session
According to GMA News, another treatment often availed by people who can afford instant treatment is oral chemotherapy, which is reportedly what increased Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s chances of recovery.
Philippine Society of Medical Oncology Dr. Jorge Ignacio says oral chemotherapy, which has been long available in the country, is considered three times more effective than conventional chemotherapy. However, the pill doesn’t come cheap, and can set you back at P90,000 to P120,000 a month.
Dealing with the high costs
Fortunately, there are many ways cancer patients can mitigate the exorbitant price tag of cancer treatment. Here are some of them.
1. Use your PhilHealth membership to get discounts. While Philhealth coverage may not be as substantial as it should be, you can use it to your advantage to lessen the costs of cancer treatment. Get up to P3,000 discount at for linear accelerator radiotherapy, which can be availed for 45 times per year, from PhilHealth-accredited hospitals. Aside from radiotherapy discounts, the government also approved the Z Benefit Package in 2012, which is meant to help PhilHealth members shoulder costs that come with prolonged hospitalization and expensive treatments.
2. Seek financial assistance from government agencies. Aside from PhilHealth, there are other government institutions that provide affordable cancer treatment in the country. For starters, the DOH offers free chemotherapy sessions for financially challenged patients with breast cancer stages 1 to 3A. The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) also extends its aid to people who can’t afford treatment. Even the Social Security System (SSS) offers sickness benefits to its members. Requirements for assistance application can be found on their respective websites.
3. Find organizations that give financial aid. Aside from the government sector, several nonprofit organizations are also more than willing to assist people with cancer to subsidize or completely shoulder treatment expenses. Among the most famous cancer support foundations are the following: Louie Jacinto Foundation, Kythe Foundation, and Kasuso Foundation. These organizations rely on support from volunteers as well as donations. (If you are not a cancer patient, you may want to donate to these groups. Think of this is a pay-it-forward gesture.)
4. Get health insurance. Since PhilHealth alone will not be enough to cover all the medical expenses, a health insurance with cancer coverage should arm you with ample protection before you even need it. –Dino Mari Testa
For more information on cancer treatment and support, you may call the Philippine Cancer Society at tel. (632) 734-2126 or (632) 733-3486.