DOH assures continuity of gov’t’s financial aid for public health in case PhilHealth is dissolved

Marje Pelayo   •   October 1, 2020   •   207

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has assured that the government’s medical financial assistance will continue even if the proposed abolishment of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) pushes through.

Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed dismay anew over the seemingly ‘endless’ corruption in government particularly in PhilHealth — so much so that he called on Congress to abolish the state health insurer. 

But DOH is confident that the President will not allow the government to stop its medical financial aid.

“Marami talaga ang hindi nakaka-access sa mga healthcare services because of financial reasons so iyan ang pangunahing objective kung bakit nandiyan ang Philhealth,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“Sa pronouncements ng ating Pangulo ay mayroon namang ganiyang prerogative base sa ebidensyang inihahain sa kaniya. Kung sa tingin niya ipa- privatize o tatanggalin, ito’y kaniyang magiging desisyon base sa ebidensyang ibibigay sa kaniya,” she added.

At present, the proposed abolition of the state health insurer is being studied by the Office of the President. 

Regardless of the outcome, Vergeire assured that a financial mechanism will still be in place to ensure continued government support for healthcare services.

“We assure the population ang ating mga kababayan na kung sakali nga na iyan ay matutuloy hindi po pababayaan ng gobyerno na wala po tayong ipapalit na financial mechanism para patuloy pa ring makakasuporta at makakapangalaga ang ating gobyerno sa ating mga kababayan when it comes sa kanilang kalusugan,” the official said.

[We assure the population that in case it proceeds, our government will not allow not having a replacement financial mechanism that will continue to support our people when it comes to health care needs.]

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday (September 29) reiterated the President’s directive to PhilHealth Chief Dante Gierran to fix the problems within the agency until December before he decides to abolish it.

Roque also announced that Gierran is set to meet with the President on Friday (October 2) to discuss the matter. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Over 100 PhilHealth-accredited centers halt granting of special privileges to dialysis patients

Marje Pelayo   •   October 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Advocate group, Dialysis PH Support Group Incorporated, is calling on the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to address the concerns of its 42,000 members across the country. 

According to the group’s founder and president Reynaldo Abacan Jr., they have been receiving reports from several members that some PhilHealth-accredited dialysis centers are no longer granting them special privileges.

Under the Bayanihan to Recover Act (Bayanihan 2), their dialysis treatment that is being shouldered by PhilHealth should extend until December this year.

“Iyong natanggap naming email mula sa aming mga members, ipinakita nila na mayroong PhilHealth clerk from Region 4 or Batangas na in-email ang bawat center na hindi muna maipapatupad ang special privilege o ang continous dialysis dahil kailangan daw nila ng implementing guidelines or circular,” Abacan said.

(Translation: We received an email from some members citing that a PhilHealth clerk from Region 4 or Batangas sent a mass email to other centers instructing them to stop the special privilege program or the continuous dialysis privilege because they need to receive first an implementing guideline or circular.)

Under PhilHealth’s regular package, a dialysis patient is entitled to 90 dialysis sessions throughout the entire year. Abacan said, each patient will only need up to August each year if his or her dialysis session is done thrice every week. 

In fact, Abacan said, they have been asking PhilHealth even way back in 2015 to extend the period of dialysis to 156 sessions to make it a one year routine. 

They argued that even with special privilege, they are still shelling out additional cash as PhilHealth only covers P2,600 while other centers are charging more than the said amount.

Abacan said there are about 100 dialysis centers across the country that have already suspended the so-called special privilege which has now affected some 30 to 70 patients already. 

“Na-cancel ang iba. Iyong iba nakagamit na tapos biglang na-cancel, biglang na-hold. Nagulat iyong mga pasyente. Kasi karamihan sa amin ubos na talaga ang Philhealth at kailangan na nilang magbayad (Others were cancelled. Some were able to start the treatment then all of a sudden, it was cancelled to their surprise. Most of us have used up all PhilHealth discounts so we really need to pay in cash),” he lamented.

“Magkano? Nasa P3,000 kada treatment para lamang maisalang sa dialysis, (How much? It’s P3,000 per treatment that you need to pay just to get into dialysis)” he added.

What worries them, Abacan said, is the possibility that the services they are entitled to are getting caught in the crossfire of issues hounding PhilHealth.

“Ngayon dahil tayo ay under ng pandemic napakahirap ng buhay ngayon. Marami sa amin nawalan ng trabaho, nawalan ng pagkakakitaan (Because of this pandemic, life is tougher. Many of us have lost their jobs, lost their sources of income),” Abacan noted.

“May mga agency na hindi na nagbibigay ng tulong so naging malaking problema sa amin talaga ito (There are agencies that no longer extend assistance, so it has become a big problem for us),” he added.

For now, the group is awaiting PhilHealth’s response to their letter regarding the matter. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

PhilHealth vows to pay Philippine Red Cross in full on October 26

Marje Pelayo   •   October 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will heed the legal opinion of the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding its memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC). 

After confirming that the agreement is not subject to Procurement Law, the state insurer decided to pay the PRC in full on Monday (October 26).

But the agency insisted that it will only pay the PRC based on the complete billing requirements that it will provide and in accordance with regulation imposed by the Commission on Audit (COA) over the amount due.

The state insurer owes PRC P930 million, hence why the latter suspended its swab testing services for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

PhilHealth said it has enough funds to pay its obligation to the PRC and stressed that once it settles the full amount, PRC has to immediately resume its swab testing service.

READ: Duterte promises to settle PhilHealth’s multi-million debt to Philippine Red Cross

PRC chairman Senator Richard Gordon on the other hand maintained that PRC will not resume its service until the state insurer pays in full for fear that PRC’s cash reserve would be depleted and bankrupt the humanitarian organization if PhilHealth fails to pay immediately. MNP (with reports from Mon Jocson)

DOJ to issue legal opinion on PhilHealth-Red Cross deal this week – Guevarra

Robie de Guzman   •   October 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) assured it will render this week a legal opinion on the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed between the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and state insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corp. for the conduct of COVID-19 tests.

“The DOJ is reviewing the MOA between the Philippine Red Cross and PhilHealth and will render an opinion within the week,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said in a message to reporters.

“We’re giving this our preferential attention,” he added.

Guevarra said the review is in response to the request of PhilHealth President and CEO Dante Gierran.

PhilHealth and PRC entered into a deal in May this year for the conduct of COVID-19 tests which will be charged to the state insurer.

The Red Cross, however, suspended the testing last week due to PhilHealth’s mounting debts.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself, in a televised speech Monday, assured to pay off the P930 million debt of PhilHealth to the PRC.

Meanwhile, PhilHealth spokesperson Rey Baleña reiterated that the agency has the funds to pay its obligations to the PRC.

The state insurer, however, wants to thresh out some issues on how to move forward with its partnership with Red Cross to ensure that members’ funds are properly handled and disbursed.

“Nais lamang nito na makatiyak na ang lahat ay nasa ayos bilang bahagi ng pangangalaga sa pondo ng mga miyembro,” Baleña said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)


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