The Supreme Court has directed Malacañang and the Department of Health (DOH) to comment on a petition that challenges the constitutionality of a new law that imposes higher penalties for health facilities that refuse to take in and provide treatment to emergency patients who fail to pay deposits or advance payments.
Respondents Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and the DOH were given a non-extendible period of 10 days to submit their respective comments on the petition filed by the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc., which sought the nullification of Republic Act (RA) No. 10932 or “An Act Prohibiting the Demand of Deposits or Advance Payments for the Confinement or Treatment of Patients in Hospitals and Medical Clinics in Certain Cases.”
RA No. 10932 was signed into law by President Duterte on August 3, 2017.
Petitioners argued the duty to administer treatment and other procedures imposed upon hospitals, medical clinics, their management and staff is “unreasonable” and "amounts to denial of due process.”
Petitioners added that the solidary liability in the law, which imposes fines and penalties that can go as high as P1-million, is “unjust, excessive and oppressive, and thus amounts to denial of due process.”
"The act or omission being penalized by the questioned law is simply the failure on the part of a health care provider to render medical help in an emergency or serious situation or the making of that help conditional upon the payment of a deposit which help he/she/it is expected to willingly oblige without delay,” the petition argued.
“By comparison… the fine imposable for refusal of a public officer to lend his/her cooperation to a competent court for the administration of justice which he/she is likewise expected to willingly oblige without delay is only at most [P 200,000.00] or only one-fifth of that imposed under R.A. 10932,” it added.
The petition also slammed the law’s presumption of liability clause, which holds accountable the hospital, clinic, and attending medical practitioner or staff liable in the event of death, permanent disability, serious impairment, or in the case of a pregnant woman, permanent injury or loss of her unborn child, stemming from denial of admission to a health facility, and asserted this provision is "repugnant to the constitutional presumption of innocence,” and “essentially reverses the presumption of innocence.”
Petitioners also assailed two other provisions in the law for “amounting to involuntary servitude:
- Section 7 of the law, which directs PhilHealth to reimburse the cost of basic emergency care given to “poor and indigent patients,” and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to provide medical assistance to the same, for being violative of the equal protection clause
- Section 8, which grants tax deductions to hospitals and medical clinics that incur other expenses surrounding emergency care to “poor and indigent patients” which are not reimbursed by PhilHealth.