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Polio survivors demand insurance coverage for respirators

2011/02/18 13:47:04

Taipei, Feb. 18 (CNA) The Bureau of National Health Insurance(BNHI) was urged Friday to provide coverage for home respiratoryequipment for polio victims with breathing difficulties.

Several polio survivors, accompanied by opposition DemocraticProgressive Party Legislator Chien Chao-tong, called on thegovernment in a press conference to loosen the qualifications forreimbursement on home respiratory support, a therapy that iscurrently provided free to those who have undergone 21 consecutivedays of tracheotomy or intubation.

"It feels like drowning, " said one patient with post-polioscoliosis, describing the difficulty of breathing without arespirator.

Not every victim of polio needs to use a respirator, but thosewith lung deterioration problems need one at home. Otherwise, theyend up in hospital undergoing rounds of tracheotomy, a painful andeasily preventable surgical procedure, said Huang Chun- nan, a poliovictim.

The annual cost of home respiratory support, includingrespiratory equipment, maintenance fees and a therapist to provideregular check-ups, is estimated at NT$500,000 (US$15,625), accordingto Huang's therapist.

The respirator alone costs NT$18,000 per month to rent, excludingthe other miscellaneous costs, the therapist said.

The cost is too high for individual patients, but comparativelylow in terms of national health expenditure, said the legislator,noting that the annual BNHI budget spent on respirators is only 1percent of the money used for dialysis.

There are approximately 1,800 people in the government-fundedhome respiratory support program each year, according to a pressstatement released by the legislator.

Another polio victim surnamed Chang said that a respirator forher is like hypertension drugs for people with high blood pressure.

"Without it I could die, " she said, referring to the worn-outrespirator given to her as a present by a friend years ago.

Acknowledging the plea, a BNHI officer said the bureau will hold acommittee conference on reimbursement for home respiratory supportfor all patients in urgent need by the end of March, and will askspecialists to evaluate and review the reimbursement plan.

The major concern of the bureau is the financial burden that willbe created, said Lin Are-ming, a BNHI senior executive officer whowas present at the press conference.

(By Nancy Liu)