MANILA - Several senators on Saturday urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to include in its COVID-19 coverage patients confined in hospital tents as health care facilities in Metro Manila is overwhelmed with fresh admissions amid a surge in infections.
Senators Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Sherwin Gatchalian, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, and Juan Miguel Zubiri pointed out that Filipinos should have access to health care services under the Universal Health Care Act of 2019 or Republic Act No. 11223 amid reports of COVID-stricken patients being accommodated in tents.
This includes health and service benefits from the state insurer such as emergency and comprehensive outpatient services, according to the senators.
"In a pandemic environment, PhilHealth has a social and moral obligation to serve the needs of its members. It plays a major role in implementing the UHC law and its services are crucially important," the statement read.
"We... urge PhilHealth President Dante Gierran to come up with a standard policy and guidelines to cover patients staying in hospital tents while waiting for admission."
The senators also criticized PhilHealth for failing to "adapt and respond to extraordinary situations" given the health emergency, which has upended the country's healthcare system.
But the agency on Friday already acknowledged the current situation, as hospitals could no longer admit the sick in regular hospital beds.
Medical facilities allegedly charging a P1,000/hour rate for patients in tents will be investigated for possible violation of pertinent laws and rules, it had said.
PhilHealth also clarified that under the current policy, COVID-19 patients "are entitled to health insurance coverage for RT-PCR tests, isolation in accredited community isolation units, and hospitalization for mild to critical cases of COVID-19."
The insurance agency last year faced several investigations due to alleged corruption, including alleged misuse of P15 billion in funds through the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM).
PhilHealth later said the funds were accounted for and already liquidated.
The country is facing a surge of new COVID-19 infections as hospitals in the capital region reporting full capacity, with COVID-dedicated beds and ICUs reaching high to critical levels.
The Philippines on Friday's logged over 15,000 fresh coronavirus infections — another record-high.
Remaining active infections have already reached 150,000 — the highest in Southeast Asia.