Tong Thi Song Huong, director of the Health Insurance Department, speaks with the government website chinhphu.vn on the new health insurance scheme's coverage of medicines.
Many people are worried they will be affected by the Ministry of Health's decision to cut the number of drugs listed in health insurance. What do you say?
Under a draft list of health insurance drugs expected to be approved soon, 1,052 of them used for medical treatment will be covered by the health insurance fund. On the list, 41 new drugs have been added to treat patients with heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetis and other ailments. The new health insurance policy will allow doctors to prescribe a new generation of cancer drugs to patients suffering in the early stages. This was not allowed previously.
A course of treatment could cost between VND 200-800 million ($10,000-40,000) a year for a patient. Under the new scheme, they will have to pay only half the cost. However, if we compare the number of drugs (including chemicals) allowed in the new policy with those in the past, only 91 have been removed (the old list had 1,143 drugs).
Why did the Health Insurance Department ask the Ministry to reduce the drugs covered in health insurance?
Assessments made by foreign experts in health insurance showed that the drug list covered in our health insurance was too wide, while the use of generic drugs was limited. This is why we have eliminated quite a few expensive drugs or drugs having similar active elements. What's more important, during our review of the old list, we paid special attention to drugs that can offer effective treatment at a reasonable price. All we want is to reduce the financial burden on patients and the health insurance fund.
Do you think that health insurance participants will be affected by the new scheme?
No, I don't think so. The 91 drugs taken off the list are mostly used in the treatment of cancer or arthritis. As I have mentioned, the new list contains 57 drugs used in cancer treatment. These are sufficient for common cancer treatment.
In addition, the Health Ministry circular 09 also regulates that cancer drugs not listed on the official list can be used by patients and reimbursed later from the health insurance fund. So the new document does not infringe on patients' benefits.
The list specifies clearly what diseases are covered by the insurance fund and how much can be spent. This is aimed at controlling the abuse of drugs by some doctors.
Some doctors complain that some special drugs having good effects have been removed. What do you say?
During the compiling of the drug list, the Ministry canvassed various expert councils on different diseases, including cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes and other diseases for their opinions. This was a good way to interact before we come up with a list.
Once again I want to reiterate that the new drug list contains many new drugs that have are highly efficient, particularly for serious diseases. — VNS