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PhilHealth urged to fund quit-smoking program

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MANILA, Philippines–An antitobacco group on Tuesday urged the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to shoulder part of the expenses smokers face when they decide to kick their habit in cessation clinics.

One effective way to encourage smokers to continue visiting cessation clinics is to shoulder, if not all, then part of what they have to spend on medication to treat their nicotine addiction, said Dr. Maricar Limpin, executive director of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP).

“It is better if [treatment] is free or partly subsidized. But when everything is free, it makes it easy for a patient to quit the program since nothing is at stake,” Limpin said in an interview with reporters yesterday.

She noted that in government-run cessation clinics, the services were free although patients had to pay for their medication. In private hospitals, patients are charged at least P500 for the treatment while prescription medicines to quit smoking cost around P100 per day.

“The problem with some patients is that when the treatment is free, they disappear in the middle of the program. They don’t value the services provided to them because they don’t feel the pinch in their pockets, so that’s why some clinics now charge for their services,” Limpin said.

She said PhilHealth should cover treatment in smoking cessation clinics to encourage more smokers to really quit the habit.

She said FCAP’s proposal to have PhilHealth subsidize smoking cessation treatments would encourage more clinics to open, noting that such facilities were limited in the country where most clinics are found in Metro Manila.

“Although now there are some local government units opening up community-based cessation clinics… I think this is better because more people can be reached in the communities,” she said.

Early this year, Health Secretary Enrique Ona announced the opening of smoking cessation clinics in public and private hospitals in Metro Manila and some provinces.

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