SINGAPORE - Cancer patients The Straits Times spoke to are hoping that changes to MediShield Life will give them greater coverage from September next year.
Mr James Parkinson Matisin, 70, is one of them.
He saw it as good news when the Government announced on Aug 17 that with changes to MediShield Life, Singapore's national health insurance scheme will help more cancer patients pay their treatment bills.
Diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer in July 2019 and myelofibrosis (bone cancer) in October last year, he has to go for check-ups once a month and scans every three months.
He is also taking the medication Ruxolitinib twice a day. These treatments add up to about $5,000 each month.
Mr Matisin, the owner of an international logistics company, receives assistance from the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) for his medication.
Means-testing under the Agency for Integrated Care had determined the subsidies he receives.
MediShield Life also covers some of his treatment costs. But he still has to use between $2,000 and $4,000 of his own money per month, depending on his health condition.
Due to his compromised immune system, he may develop a high fever and shortness of breath. It can result in him being hospitalised for about three to five days each time.
Mr Matisin said that his business has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and is glad that he may be able to receive further assistance for his treatment.
"The enhanced coverage will allow me to continue treatment with better coverage," he added.
Among other things, the changes to MediShield Life will see claim limits for drugs on the Health Ministry's list range from between $200 and $9,600 a month.
Mr Matisin said: "There is no cure for myelofibrosis. But the medication that I am taking allows extension of life, and helps with better quality of life.
"There is more time to fight cancer, to recover my business, expand into other areas, and allow me to continue to find ways to set aside funds for my family, to provide some security after the time comes for me to move on to the next chapter."
From September next year, more cancer patients will receive help in paying for their outpatient treatments.
There will also be more subsidised cancer treatments and the income criterion for subsidies under the Medication Assistance Fund will be raised for certain high-cost drugs.
But there will be reduced coverage for some patients who have opted for treatments deemed not clinically proven or cost-effective.
Ms Yan Siew Ghiang, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April last year, is being treated at the National Cancer Centre.
The 63-year-old, who is unemployed, said she is undergoing three forms of treatments and taking five types of medications, such as Letrozole.
They cost more than $23,600 each month, depending on her treatment dosage.
With coverage from MediFund and MediShield Life, as well as financial assistance from organisations such as SCS and Roche, she pays nothing.
But due to the unpredictable nature of her condition, she is concerned about a relapse and more medical bills.
She hopes that she may receive more support when the changes take place.
"MediShield Life coverage really helps to ease much of the treatment costs, including payments for blood tests and doctor's consultation," Ms Yan said.