SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go issued an urgent appeal to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to scale up its response to the pandemic by providing expanded protections against medical costs, particularly for families that are facing the financial strain of the pandemic.
“As the primary health insurance provider of millions of Filipinos, it is important that PhilHealth adapts to the current challenges the country is facing today. For faster recovery, PhilHealth should be more proactive by anticipating the needs of Filipinos even before they avail treatment and expand the coverage of its health insurance schemes accordingly,” said Go.
Go, who serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Health, expressed concern that many poor and vulnerable Filipinos are still struggling to gain access to quality healthcare due to the overburdened health system caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Gaya po ng parating sinasabi ko sa inyo, ipaglalaban ko na patuloy ma-implementa ang Universal Health Care Law at maisaayos ang operasyon ng PhilHealth,” Go said, adding that the government, as a whole, must do its best to unburden Filipinos by providing necessary, reliable, and efficient health services in line with the UHC law especially amid the ongoing pandemic.
“We need to double our efforts in order to reduce further the waiting time for patients needing urgent treatment or admission, provide faster medical transport and patient pick-up, and facilitate much improved use of critical care services in our health facilities,” Go emphasized.
The senator also urged PhilHealth to extend its coverage to patients admitted in tents and makeshift facilities given the limited capacity of hospitals.
“Sa PhilHealth, huwag po natin pabayaan ‘yung mga may sakit na hindi na nga ma-admit sa ospital dahil punuan, may dagdag na gastos pa habang admitted sa tents kaya parte ‘yan dapat ng coverage,” Go said.
In a recent statement, PhilHealth said that enhanced guidelines will be issued soon to ensure that adequate financial protection is duly provided to patients without compromising quality of care. PhilHealth also guaranteed that COVID-19 patients are entitled to health insurance coverage for testing, isolation, and treatment for mild to critical cases.
Go earlier appealed to concerned agencies to expedite the construction and expansion of more modular facilities and tents equipped with COVID-19 isolation areas and ICU beds to cater particularly to those with severe conditions.
“Nakakaawa po ‘yung mga kababayan nating naghihingalo na tapos wala pang mahanap na ospital. Buhay po ang nakasalalay sa bawat minutong pag-aantay makakuha lang ng ospital, kama, at doktor para maalagaan sila,” he said.
“Huwag nating hintayin na nag-aagaw buhay na sa labas ng mga ospital ang ating mga kababayang may sakit. Gawin natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya para sagipin at gamutin sila,” he added.
The senator also reminded PhilHealth to fulfill its financial obligations to hospitals and their patients in a timely manner to ensure medical institutions are able to afford vital medical supplies and the salaries of their medical workers. He warned that any failure to do so could hurt the stability of the healthcare system.
“I urge PhilHealth to review and enhance its existing policies. Karamihan naman po ng mga Pilipino may kontribusyon sa PhilHealth. Dapat nilang maramdaman ang serbisyo ng PhilHealth, lalo na sa panahong ito,” Go added.
Based on a meeting with key executive officials, Go shared that PhilHealth president Dante Gierran reported that the agency had settled about P91.4 billion of hospital claims for the year 2020. An estimated P3.7 billion worth of claims is currently being processed while another P5.2 billion is for further validation.
Meanwhile, Gierran shared that PhilHealth already created a committee to conduct follow-ups, track the difference, and reconcile the books of the hospitals. Upon receiving the necessary reimbursements, private hospitals agreed to increase the number of COVID-19 beds by 50 percent in accordance with the directive of the Department of Health.
“Dapat ma-settle on time [ang mga financial obligations] in accordance with our regulations. Huwag natin hayaan na maapektuhan ang operasyon ng mga ospital dahil sa kakulangan ng pondo,” reiterated Go.