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Cabinet allocates extra NT$4 billion annually for cancer screening

07/11/2024 10:37 PM
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A cancer screening consultation in Yunlin County. CNA file photo
A cancer screening consultation in Yunlin County. CNA file photo

Taipei, July 11 (CNA) Starting from next year, Taiwan's government will spend an additional NT$4 billion (US$122.9 million) annually to expand cancer screening programs covered by the country's National Health Insurance (NHI) system, the Cabinet said on Thursday.

At a press briefing, Shih Chung-liang (石崇良), head of the National Health Insurance Administration, said the Cabinet had approved plans to increase annual spending on cancer detection testing from the current NT$2.8 billion to NT$6.8 billion, starting in 2025.

The additional funding will be drawn from the central government's general budget, according to Shih.

Cancer has been the leading cause of death in Taiwan for the last 42 years. 53,126 people died of cancer in 2023, accounting for 25.8 percent of the total 205,575 deaths, according to data from the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW).

The most common lethal types of cancer are lung cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer, MOHW data showed.

Under the plans to expand cancer screening coverage under the NHI system, eligibility for fecal occult blood tests will be expanded from the current age range of 50-74 to include those aged 45 and above, with individuals aged 40-44 with a family history of the disease also entitled to the tests, Shih said.

Women aged 25 and above will also be eligible for subsidized pap smear tests, which are currently only available under the national health insurance system to women aged 30 and above, according to Shih.

In addition, subsidized mammograms will be available for people in the 40-74 age range, instead of the current 45-69 age group, he said.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) tests will also become accessible for the first time to people of certain ages, he added.

Screening plays a crucial role in detecting cancer, MOHW Minister Chiu Tai-yuan (邱泰源) said at the press briefing, noting that early diagnosis and treatment not only increased the chances of patient recovery but also reduced overall NHI spending.

Shih added that the Cabinet also plans to allocate NT$5 billion from the central government's general budget in 2025 to subsidize new cancer medicines, with the annual amount expected to rise to NT$10 billion within three years.

However, the Cabinet has not yet released details of how the funding for new cancer medicines research is expected to be spent.

During his presidential campaign, President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) pledged to reduce cancer-related deaths by one third by 2030 through expanding subsidies for screenings and new treatments.

Taiwan's NHI system is a compulsory medical insurance program that provides heavily-subsidized healthcare to the country's residents.

(By Teng Pei-ju)

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