Duterte orders PhilHealth to speed up payment of hospital claims — Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 8, 2021   •   178

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to fast-track the payment of its obligations to hospitals, Malacañang said Thursday.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte directed the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to expedite the payment of valid claims of hospitals today, April 8, 2021,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

PhilHealth president Dante Gierran earlier said that the state insurer has yet to complete the processing of unpaid hospital claims.

Meanwhile, Roque announced that PhilHealth approved the application of a debit-credit payment method (DCPM) to facilitate the settlement of accounts payable to Health Care Facilities (HCFs) during the state of public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“HCFs eligible for DCPM must be located in IATF and NTF identified regions, such as the National Capital Region, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal,” Roque said.

The Palace official said these HCFs must have no Interim Reimbursement Mechanism Fund balance on record.

“They must be attending to COVID-19 patients or providing the SARS-COV-2 testing package and their accreditation is not suspended during the applicable period,” he said.

“Through this measure, we are confident there would be continuous delivery of healthcare services, especially in identified areas of concern, amid the rising number of coronavirus active cases,” he added.

PhilHealth’s debit-credit payment method now applies to all COVID-19 high, critical risk areas – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government’s task force for COVID-19 response has approved the application of Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s (PhilHealth) debit-credit payment method (DCPM) in areas with high-risk and critical COVID-19 situation nationwide, Malacañang said Friday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) approved the policy on Thursday, April 22.

Roque said the move was made as high-risk and critical risk areas will also be prioritized in the COVID-19 vaccine allocation, human health resource deployment, and other relevant COVID-19 response measures, as applicable.

Prior to the IATF’s order, PhilHealth, under its Circular 2021-0004, provides for the use of payment method to facilitate the settlement of accounts payable to healthcare facilities during the State of Public Health Emergency brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

PhilHealth initially applied DCPM only to areas identified by the IATF, particularly in the National Capital Region, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal.

Roque said the IATF likewise directed the National Task Force (NTF) Task Group Treat, through the One COVID Referral System, to utilize the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases (FASSSTER) projections on target beds and human resources for health.

“These projections shall identify health capacity needs required to lower health care and intensive care unit (ICU) utilization rates,” he said.

“The NTF shall also review and implement the recommended Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat- Reintegrate strategies to reduce the health utilization rates and augment the needs of human resources for health,” he added.

Roque said that the task group will also identify target additional beds on a weekly basis that will substantially reduce health care and ICU utilization rates, determine and list specific health facilities and infrastructure to contribute these additional beds, and operationalize how these beds become functional with adequate human resources for health and equipment.

The Palace official earlier said that the government is eyeing to add 200 more ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

“The NTF shall further engage the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to develop training and instructional materials of available COVID-19 response frameworks to enhance the enforcement of COVID-19 strategies at the barangay level,” Roque said.

The said materials shall be cascaded to the barangay, purok, sitio, and zone levels through the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the regional counterparts of the NTF for immediate and intensified implementation through barangay empowerment, he added.

PhilHealth urged to upgrade dialysis coverage to 144 sessions amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   April 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday called on the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to upgrade its benefits package for dialysis patients to help Filipinos cope with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Hontiveros issued the statement in support of the call of some advocacy groups for PhilHealth to increase the free dialysis coverage for all patients while the country is still in a state of emergency due to the pandemic.

The senator said the state insurer’s dialysis package should be increased from 90 to 144 sessions, and include personal protective equipment (PPEs), the COVID-19 testing required before their sessions, as well as other supply costs being passed on to patients.

“P12,000 weekly for dialysis sessions, not including transportation, medicine, food, and other daily needs of their family,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“Ngayon hindi sila maka-access ng life-saving dialysis nila dahil puno na ang mga ospital. Karamihan ay nawalan pa ng trabaho, parang wala nang natitira sa kanila. This is a nightmare beyond comprehension,” she added.

According to Hontiveros, advocates from Dialysis PH, a support group for dialysis patients, said that they were forced onto waitlists because the few hospitals that offered dialysis services were already overflowing with patients. It is even more difficult, they said, that dialysis centers shut down completely when the staff needs to quarantine or turn the patients away when they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms.

“Marami ang pumapanaw habang nasa waitlist. Hindi sila makakahintay dahil lifeline nila ang mga treatments na ito. These deaths, although not included in the numbers reported, are also caused by the circumstances exacerbated by the pandemic,” she said.

“That is why we have to help as many people as we can by judiciously updating our policies and programs to meet the urgent needs of all Filipinos,” she added.

When Senate session resumes in May, Hontiveros said she will file a bill seeking to permanently increase the free dialysis sessions covered by PhilHealth to 144 sessions to ‘help ease the burden’ while waiting for an organ donor match.

She will also raise this concern during the upcoming budget deliberations at the Senate.

“Oportunidad talaga ito para patibayin ang ating health care system. Nararamdaman na natin ang mga epekto ng pagkaltas ng budget mula sa Health Department sa gitna ng health crisis,” she said.

“Sana matuto tayo para sa next budget season because the price of our wrong priorities is too steep to pay,” she added.

Saliva-based RT-PCR tests now covered by Philhealth – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   April 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has directed the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to come up with mechanisms to cover saliva-based RT-PCR tests for COVID-19.

The DOH issued the directive as it released guidelines on the use and administration of saliva-based RT-PCR testing on Tuesday.

Under a memorandum dated March 31, the DOH ordered the state insurer to “develop appropriate payment and provider engagement mechanisms” for the test.

“No payment shall be charged to patients beyond the PhilHealth coverage for the conduct of saliva-based RT-PCR testing,” read a document signed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

In a statement on Tuesday, the DOH announced that the country is now officially allowing the use of saliva-based tests for COVID-19 “in pursuit of expanding the country’s testing capacity and ensuring immediate and efficient implementation of PDITR strategies.”

Under the DOH Department Memorandum (DM) No. 2021-0161, only licensed COVID-19 laboratories certified by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) are allowed to perform saliva-based RT-PCR.

“Furthermore, point-of-care clinics, specimen collecting facilities, and disease reporting units can perform saliva specimen collection, provided that the specimen collectors have undergone training from the referral licensed COVID-19 laboratory certified to perform saliva testing,” it said.

Only test kits validated by the RITM or other RITM-recognized laboratories can be used for saliva tests. These kits should also have a special certification from the Food and Drug Administration.

The DOH also reiterated that “only trained saliva specimen collectors” should administer the test and “only medical doctors should interpret the results of these tests.”

“Results need to be correlated with the overall clinical and epidemiological context of the patient,” it added.

The DOH said saliva tests should only be done on certain conditions and are deemed valid when such conditions are met.

“As stipulated in the guidelines, morning saliva is preferred as specimen due to higher viral load but this should not prevent specimen collection at any other time,” it said.

“Proper collection procedure should also be strictly observed where patients should not eat, drink, brush their teeth, use mouthwash or smoke for at least 30 minutes before sample collection,” it added.

The agency, however, maintained that nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab specimens remain the standard specimen for the diagnosis of COVID-19 through RT-PCR testing.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) first rolled out saliva testing in January after securing government approval. The humanitarian organization offers the saliva test at P2,000 each.

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