Smokers and their families not eligible for city’s free healthcare

The city administration will deny smokers and their families who stay in the same house access to free healthcare for low-income families, officials said.

Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo said the city would take not support heavy smokers who wasted their potential and endangered their families for the habit.

“A survey showed low-income families spent 22 percent of their income on cigarettes. These people enjoy free health care while still smoking, which worsens their health. This is not fair,” he said on Tuesday.

Fauzi said he was concerned with the increase in the number of young smokers.

The head of the city’s health agency, Dien Emawati, said her agency was preparing a gubernatorial decree that would become a legal basis for the policy.

“I hope we can finish the draft of the regulation within a month. In the meantime, we will use flyers and other means of notification to raise people’s awareness of the new consequences of smoking,” she said via telephone.

Dien added her office would cooperate with NGOs, including the Jakarta Residents Forum (Fakta), to make the free healthcare recipients aware of the upcoming policy.

She stressed that the new policy would apply to the all family members living in the same house with smokers, arguing that they shared the responsibility of maintaining a healthy environment.

“Cigarette smoke affects the health of the whole family over the years,” she said, adding that the agency had not decided on a method to identify smokers, but that volunteer-based neighborhood surveys were one option.

Tulus Abadi from the Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI) said he supported the plan.

“It would be good if the city really applied the policy because people who can afford to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day are not poor,” he told The Jakarta Post via telephone.

He said providing free healthcare to people who consumed tobacco was ridiculous as the materials in tobacco threatened their health and financial condition as well.

Tulus said the administration needed to clarify the level of cigarette consumption that would disqualify people from low-income families from accessing free healthcare.

He said a survey from the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) showed that budget-wise, poor families gave cigarettes high priority, second only to rice.

The city currently has two healthcare schemes funded by the city budget.

Gakin is the free health care scheme for families living in poverty. The scheme is only available to residents with city-issued identity cards.

The other scheme is SKTM, which uses a letter from a subdistrict chief stating that a resident lives in poverty. The letter enables bearers to receive up to 50 percent off on their healthcare costs.

Dien said the city spent Rp 413 billion (US$44 million) for the two schemes in 2009 and allocated Rp 550 billion for this year.