Cancer patients petition for more insurance coverage for immunotherapy

Lee Min-ju  Published 2018.05.09  15:36  Updated 2018.05.10 11:10


Korean cancer patients are calling for the government to expand insurance coverage for immunotherapy, a new type of revolutionary but expensive treatment that boosts the immune system to fight tumors.

On Cheong Wa Dae’s online bulletin board for the public petition, a petitioner demanded on April 25 that the health authorities increase reimbursement on immunotherapy and indications for last stage cancer patients.

A total of 38,100 people signed the petition as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, which drew the most signatures among petitions in the health and welfare sector. The petition can collect signatures for 30 days.

The online page of Cheong Wa Dae that accepts the public petition.

The presidential office’s public petition system is one of the Moon Jae-in government’s tools to communicate with the public under the principle, “When people ask, the government answers.” If a petition receives more than 200,000 signatures within 30 days, government and Cheong Wa Dae officials provide answers to the petition and the Blue House’s stance.

The petitioner for immunotherapy introduced a case of his mother who was on immunotherapy, to demand reimbursement.

The mother could not go to sleep without painkillers, but her condition has improved significantly after getting immunotherapy, the petitioner said. However, it cost more than 1.5 million won ($1,387) per shot, which was a heavy financial burden for the family.

“My mother’s hospital recommended her get hospice care and immunotherapy was her faint hope. She received immunotherapy only twice, but now she can have meals without painkillers,” the petitioner said.

“To treat metastatic cancer, too, she needs immunotherapy more than 10 times, or maybe 20 times. Please help. Please expand insurance coverage for immunotherapy and save the lives of last stage cancer patients.”

Other participants agreed with the petitioner and shared their stories.

“I got cancer when I was 17. My family went through hell. We were financially devastated. For cancer patients, I hope the state could give a little more help,” one participant said.

Another said, “My friend is fighting cancer. I hope immunotherapy could get more reimbursement.” Others said more insurance coverage for immunotherapy could save more lives.

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