PhilHealth seeks delay of Universal Healthcare implementation

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 16 2020 05:39 PM | Updated as of Jun 16 2020 07:44 PM

Health workers assist a beneficiary of the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pagasa” program during its roll out ceremony held at the NHA compound in Quezon City, May 20, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. on Tuesday sought the delay of the implementation of the Universal Healthcare (UHC) Law, as collections this year took a downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The state insurance agency in a joint hearing recommended the postponement of the implementation of the UHC and its primary care benefit expansion due to lack of funds. 

PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales said the agency was "taking a very prudent approach" on the delivery of new packages under the UHC as its collection of contributions was "about 10 percent" compared last year.

"The collection from the direct contributors has dropped significantly kasi wala hong negosyo (there's no business). We are falling back on our reserve which we anticipated is going to take a hit," he said.

"As we get more data, as we see how this pandemic develops, maybe we can begin to plan to deliver packages in the primary healthcare package depends on how things turn out with the COVID-19."

President Rodrigo Duterte last year signed the law that grants every Filipino “immediate eligibility” and access to preventive, promotive, curative, and rehabilitative health services.

These include free medical checkups, laboratory tests, and other diagnostic services.

But lawmakers on told PhilHealth to prioritize the delivery of primary care, even as the country continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quezon 4th District Rep. Angelina Tan urged PhilHealth to focus on primary care as the public is scared to go to health facilities in fear of contracting the illness and it would lessen the agency's expenses on tertiary care or hospitalization.

"Sana tingnan natin the more na dapat mag-focus tayo sa kalusugan ng ating mamamayan outside the hospital, which is primary care. Mas male-less expenses ninyo into hospitalization," she said.

(We should focus more on the health of our citizens outside the hospital which is primary care. It would lesses PhilHealth's expenses on hospitalization)

Sen. Risa Hontiveros meanwhile said the state saves on hospitalization by spending more on primary care.

"Kung gagastos din lang naman talaga ang PhilHealth ngayong panahon ng pandemic, I think it would still be wise, even wiser na mas gumastos sa primary care in order to preempt higher expenditures sa mas serious na healthcare na kakailanganin kung lulubha iyong sakit," she said.

(If the PhilHealth is still going to spend during the pandemic, I think it would still be wise, even wiser to spend on primary care in order to preempt higher expenditures in more serious illnesses.)

"Ito ang litmus test ng implementasyon ng UHC, 'yung pagresponde ng ating bansa sa COVID-19 pandemic," she added. 

(Our country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is the litmus test of the UHC's implementation.)