60 pct of health expenses for vulnerable elderly paid out of pocket - statistics authority

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 22 2020 10:52 AM

Elderly women take a rest inside Fisher Mall in Quezon City on August 15, 2019. ABS-CBN News


MANILA - The elderly, including those stricken with disease, accounted for nearly a fourth of total health expenditures in 2018, and 60 percent of payments were made out of pocket, a study by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.

The report was released this month as vulnerable populations including the elderly and those with comorbidities faced the threat of COVID-19, and as multiple investigations examined alleged multibillion-peso fund misuse at state health insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth).

Based on data from the Philippine National Health Accounts (PNHA), the study found that out of the total P171.5 billion spending of Filipinos 60 years old and above, P101.2 billion, or nearly 60 percent, were paid out of pocket. 

This trumped health expenses covered by state and private health insurers, which accounted for the remaining 40 percent.

PhilHealth covered P32.5 billion, P16.3 billion was paid through "domestic revenue-based or central government scheme" (national government health programs), and P21.5 billion by private medical insurance providers, PSA said.

The study further showed that some P44.4 billion of total health spending for the elderly were used by the population segment with comorbities. 

And some 15.7 percent were spent for treatment and management of diseases such as heart ailments and other comorbidities- illnesses known to aggravate the effects of COVID-19, as seen in critical cases among older patients. 

The elderly, especially those with existing medical conditions, are considered among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, with critical cases and deaths occurring among senior patients. 

A World Health Organization report in late June showed that of the total 1,186 deaths at the time, over 65 percent were among patients 60 and above: 30.2 percent were aged 60 to 69, while 35 percent were aged 70 and over.

Multiple investigations are currently looking into alleged systemic corruption at PhilHealth after whistleblowers testified on supposed fraudulent practices at the agency, including overpriced procurement and overpayments to favored hospitals. 

The state health insurer is tasked with providing universal health coverage to all Filipinos.