QUEZON City Rep. Alfred Vargas on Friday appealed to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PHilhealth) to resume its free dialysis program immediately, saying its decision to temporarily halt the program hurts the poor and members who have been affected by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Nasabi na ng PhilHealth na nasa proseso na ang pagpapatuloy ng free dialysis program. Pero sana, madaliin pa natin. Buhay ng mga pasyente ang nakasalalay rito—isang dialysis session lang ang hindi mapuntahan ay manganganib na ang kanilang buhay,” Vargas said.
The Dialysis PH Support Group Inc. had said that over 100 accredited dialysis centers rejected the PhilHealth cards of patients who have availed of more than the 90 dialysis sessions provided by the program. This has allegedly affected some 30 to 70 patients per center.
“It is unconscionable to have our indigent dialysis patients scrounge around for money amid record unemployment and rising poverty during this pandemic. Mga kababayan natin yan na lubhang na-apektuhan ng pandemya. Dapat silang tinutulungan, hindi pinahihirapan,” said Vargas.
The lawmaker also chided the state health insurer for hiding behind legalities whenever it draws flak for it failure to perform its functions.
“Parang nagiging default excuse na ang pag-review nila ng proseso sa kawalan ng agarang aksyon. This shows insensitivity to the needs of their members, and we cannot hide this insensitivity behind the same tired excuses,” Vargas said.
PhilHealth, in a statement released recently, said that its new management transition team is “working on the appropriate policy that will afford the extension of coverage to patients availing of dialysis sessions beyond the 90-days limit per year.”
Dialysis Support Group president Reynaldo Abacan Jr. earlier said that under the Bayanihan 2 law, the free dialysis privilege should last until December due to the ongoing public health emergency.
The regular coverage of up to 90 days or 90 sessions per calendar year for dialysis patients was extended when President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of calamity due to the COVID-19 pandemic for six months in March.
The coverage of regular members of 45 days per calendar year was also extended by the declaration of a state of calamity.
Since the President extended the state of calamity for one year from Sept. 13, 2020 to Sept. 12, 2021, the PhilHealth is still obligated to pay for dialysis sessions even if the allotted days of insurance coverage have already been used up.