House Bill 8636, or the proposed National Integrated Cancer Control Act, was approved Monday on its third and final reading by the House of Representatives through an overwhelming vote of 198-0 in favor.
The measure seeks to make more equitable, available and affordable cancer treatments and care. The bill emphasizes the needs of the underprivileged, poor, and marginalized Filipinos who otherwise cannot afford or access these lifesaving treatments. The bill would address these concerns by promoting an integrated and comprehensive approach to national health development. This would include the strengthening of integrative multidisciplinary, patient and family centered cancer control policies, systems and services. All levels of the nation’s existing healthcare system would be affected by this.
The bill would also mandate the establishment of a National Integrated Cancer Control program, which shall serve as the framework for all cancer-related activities that the government would engage in. Government programs relating to this include current efforts to decrease overall mortality and the impact of adult or childhood cancer on the quality of life of Filipinos, as well as efforts to lessen the incidence of preventable cancers and prevent the recurrence of cancers and secondary cancers among survivors.
Beside this, a National Integrated Cancer Control Advisory Council shall also be created. The council is to serve as the regulatory board for policy matters concerning cancer control and treatment.
The programs proposed by the bill are to provided funding through a Cancer Assistance Fund to be managed by the Department of Health (DOH). Medicine and treatment assistance programs would also be funded through this.
Besides managing the program’s funding, the DOH shall also be mandated to institute and conduct any necessary reforms to ensure patients are able to receive early access treatments, essential medicines, innovative medicines and technologies, and other measures like pain management and palliative care.
The current PhilHealth benefit package for members with cancer is to be amended and expanded to including screening, detection, diagnosis, treatment assistance, palliative care, and other relevant and necessary measures to ensure the well-being of both adults and children with any type or stage of cancer.
Cancer patients will be accorded the same rights and privileges given to persons with disabilities, in accordance with the “Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.”
The Senate has passed its version of the measure inn November. The bill is now to go to the bicameral conference committee level, where Congress will reconcile any conflicting provisions between the House and Senate versions.