Former Senator Heherson Alvarez, 80, lost in his battle with COVID-19. His wife, Cecile, has been discharged from the hospital and is recovering from the coronavirus infection. Photo from ABS-CBN News
Culture Spotlight

Daughter of late Sen. Heherson Alvarez sets records straight on parents’ staggering hospital bills

Xilca Alvarez-Protacio apologizes over brother’s honest error, pleads for understanding. By ANCX
ANCX | Apr 22 2020

Daughter of late Senator Heherson Alvarez and Philippine Educational Theater Association founder Cecile Guidote Alvarez, Xilca Alvarez-Protacio, apologized profusely for the inadvertent errors her brother Hexilon stated in an interview regarding their parents’ hospital bills. The former senator passed away recently from COVID-19, and Cecile is now recovering from her battle with the virus. 

In a DZMM interview, Hexilon Alvarez stated that his parents’ hospital bills for their confinement had reached more than PHP 8 million, adding “my family had paid this amount and was hoping to receive reimbursement from PhilHealth.” This came at the height of Filipinos’ mounting worries over steep hospital bills they might incur, should a member of their family contract the deadly virus.

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Xilca wrote a letter to ABS-CBN president Carlo Katigbak to clarify the matter, pointing out four factual errors. First, their “mother’s bills were approximately PHP 2 million.” Second, Manila Doctors Hospital did NOT charge them for their mother’s hospitalization, as “the entire amount was shouldered by PhilHealth, upon her discharge last April 15.”

Third, while Xilca cannot be certain as to the amount, she was told after their father had passed that their father’s hospital bills were “tentatively somewhere in the neighborhood of almost PHP 5 million (without the Senior Citizen’s discount being factored in yet).” 

Fourth, Manila Doctors Hospital did not ask them to settle their late father’s bills, as the hospital’s priority at the time was to release his remains as soon as possible so he could be cremated immediately, given the highly infectious nature of COVID-19. “In fact, Manila Doctors did not even volunteer the amount of his bill, and they gave me an estimate only because I had prodded them to. Moreover, Manila Doctors was kind enough to reassure me that the bills were not a priority, that they would discuss these with PhilHealth, and that they would release his remains immediately. This, too, was a tremendous relief, as it allowed me to focus my efforts on arranging for my father’s cremation.”

Xilca added that among her family, she was the only one dealing directly with people from Manila Doctors whether it was the administration, the Alvarez couple’s attending physicians, and the resident doctors, and nurses. “I can even assure you that we would not have been able to pay PHP 8 million, even if we had wanted to, so there is nothing for PhilHealth to ‘reimburse’ my family.”

Xilca says her brother appeared to have misunderstood the facts and made some assumptions based on outdated information. “In particular, after our parents had been hospitalized for about a week and were both intubated, I was informed that their running bill was approximately PHP 2 million. At that time, there were yet no clear guidelines or pronouncement from PhilHealth as to the extent of coverage to be granted to COVID-19 patients, so we had to brace ourselves for the prospect of a gigantic hospital bill at the end,” she stated.

“I then told this to my brother weeks ago, and it now appears that he extrapolated the figure of PHP 8 million from what I told him weeks ago, and assumed that we must have somehow paid that amount. I hope you can forgive him for his honest error, and plead for your understanding as he (like the rest of my family) is very distraught over our dad’s demise,” she wrote.

“I am so mortified by all this, and am deeply concerned that this false information might cause embarrassment or other problems for Manila Doctors (which has been nothing else but professional and kind to my family) or PhilHealth—both of whom I am so grateful for and to, or cause complications with the settlement of parents’ hospitalization expenses,” she pointed out.

Xilca said she would much rather that her dad’s life be celebrated for the advocacies he championed and that he be remembered for the good things he did in his lifetime, rather than for this distraction that her brother’s error had inadvertently caused.

The late senator's remains were cremated Monday night in compliance with the health department's protocol while his wife will remain under isolation until May 1.