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New Dubai insurance initiative to cover 3 types of cancer

Asma Ali Zain/Dubai
Filed on December 10, 2017 | Last updated on December 10, 2017 at 11.59 pm
New Dubai insurance initiative to cover 3 types of cancer

(Alamy Stock Photo)

The new scheme covers screening as well as treatment of breast, colorectal and cervical cancer

Three types of cancers will now be covered by the basic benefit plan under the mandatory health insurance scheme of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). This makes it the first government entity in the world to provide a complete spectrum of care from screening to treatment.

All Dubai visa holders who automatically by law have the mandatory health insurance cover now are eligible for screening and treatment of breast, colorectal and cervical cancer.

The authority announced the Basmah initiative of the health funding department on Sunday.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Dr Haidar Al Yousuf, director of health funding, said the directive will come into effect from 2018. "So, in a couple of weeks, patients who are eligible will be screened for cancer and treated under strict criteria," he said.

He said what was unique about this initiative was that even if the screening and treatment exceeds the insurance limit, the treatment will not be stopped.

Prior to this scheme, cancer coverage under the mandatory health insurance was limited to Dh150,000. Now, this is no longer the case as those detected with breast, colorectal or cervical cancer will receive coverage from screening until treatment. "Insurance companies will continue to offer coverage and treatment will not stop," he said.

"This is a milestone in terms of health insurance coverage and we have redefined health insurance through this initiative.

"Screening is as per criteria which includes several factors such as age of the person etc. If a patient is detected with any of the three cancers during this screening, the DHA patient tracking and follow-up centre is automatically notified. They then ensure that the complete treatment process for the patient is smooth and streamlined."

Al Yousuf explained that this was possible because the healthcare fraternity has come together to ensure the economies of scale support such a noble initiative.

"People will go through criteria-based screening. If a patient is detected to have any of the three cancers, he/she will be treated under the Basmah initiative at the Dubai Hospital or at a later stage at another recognised centre of excellence in cancer care in Dubai. The patient will receive the same level of treatment as we have ensured unified pathways for cancer care in Dubai," he said.

However at present, only the Dubai Hospital will be offering screening and treatment under this initiative. "Private hospitals can be part of this initiative by applying to become centres of excellence in cancer treatment," he added.

Early diagnosis is key

Humaid Al Qutami, Chairman of the Board and Director-General of the DHA, said: "In line with the vision 2021 plan, this initiative will help in early diagnosis as screening is now a part of the basic benefit plan. Additionally, we will be able to provide financial and emotional support to patients suffering from these three types of cancer.

"This is possible because of the support of our partners, both government and private. Our aim is to provide the highest level of quality care for patients and to support them (in) the best we can," he added.

Prior to this, the funding department recently added screening services for diabetes, heart disease, newborn and developmental screening as part of the mandatory health insurance cover. In the future, the department hopes to include screening for other diseases such as Hepatitis C.

Cancer cases have increased in Dubai significantly

Dubai has reported that in the past 30 years, cancer incidence has increased significantly. Breast, colon, cervical and prostate cancers are among the leading causes of death.

Studies have also shown that in the UAE, women get breast cancer around 10 years earlier than in other parts of the world. Cancer incidence in Dubai is expected to double by 2020 for lung, colorectal and breast cancer in particular. Treatment for cancer includes chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Breast cancer, one of the three most prevalent types of cancer in Dubai, is often treated by mastectomy, wherein the breast and cancerous tissue are removed. In its early stages, colorectal cancer can also be treated with surgical removal of tissue.

Until now, a supplementary insurance holder could get coverage for until Dh150,000 but many insurance plans consider cancer to be a pre-existing condition (even if it wasn't diagnosed until after purchase of the policy), and, therefore, will not pay for its diagnosis or treatment.

The cost of chemotherapy starts from at least Dhs25,000 per session, rising to upwards of Dhs50,000 at pricier hospitals.

With rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and/or radiotherapy, patients are looking at a shortfall of hundreds of thousands of dirhams that they must foot themselves.

In some cases, residents need at least Dh1million of cover a year to cover any form of cancer, according to experts.

KT Nano Edit

Removing fear of bills

A lot of deaths by cancer can be prevented, if mutant cells are detected early. But many a time people consult doctors when it is too late. Fear of medical bills is to blame. Including three types of cancer in the basic health insurance plan would do a great service to people, and encourage them to get screened at the slightest doubt. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, but with provisions such as these we save many lives.

asmaalizain@khaleejtimes.com





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