CEBU City, Cebu—Amid the continued detrimental impact of high inflation in the country, AGRI Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to implement a minimum 20 percent across the board increase in its offered health benefits.
At the First National Credit Surety Fund Cooperative Congress held here, the solon from Bicol said last Tuesday. “Natutuwa tayo na pinakinggan ng PhilHealth ang panawagan natin noong nakaraang budget hearing na palawakin ang mga benepisyong ipinagkakaloob nila.” [We are glad that PhilHealth listened to our call during the last budget hearing to expand the benefits they provide.]
“Pero imbes na mga piling sakit lang ang dagdagan ng suporta ng PhilHealth, dapat magkaroon ng pagtaas sa lahat ng sinasagot nitong bayarin sa pagpapa-ospital ng mga miyembro.”[But instead of increasing the support of PhilHealth only for selected diseases, there should be an increase in all the hospitalization fees it covers for its members.]
Recently, the PhilHealth increased the coverage of several of its benefit packages for its members, which include high-risk pneumonia and ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.
“These increases and expanded health benefits are urgently needed as PhilHealth’s case rates are no longer responsive to the hospitalization cost,” Lee was quoted as saying in a statement his office issued. “Napakalaki pa rin ng binabayaran ng mga pasyente sa pagpapa-ospital.” [Patients still pay a lot for hospitalization.]
He pointed out that “kung kaunti na lang ang nabibili ngayon ng dating binubudget para sa pagkain dahil sa pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihin, paano pa kung may magkasakit sa pamilya?”[If the budget for food is now able to buy a little because of the increase in the price of goods, what more if someone in the family gets sick?]
Lee revealed that he wrote a letter to PhilHealth officials recommending the across the board increase, and stressed that “siguradong ‘winner’ tayong lahat kung tataasan ng PhilHealth ng 20 percent [to] 30 percent ang sinasagot nitong mga bayarin.”
During the budget hearing of Department of Health’s proposed 2024 budget last September, Lee revealed that while PhilHealth has P466 billion worth of investible funds and P68.4 billion in net income, he was informed that PhilHealth had racked up huge debts to hospitals.
In the said hearing, PhilHealth president and CEO Emmanuel R. Ledesma Jr. confirmed that the state health insurer owes hospitals a total of P27 billion. At the same hearing, he also committed that PhilHealth would settle the bulk of these debts within 90 days.
In the same budget deliberation, Lee also called on PhilHealth to use its available funds to expand the healthcare packages offered to Filipino citizens.
“Kung may bilyon-bilyong pondo ang PhilHealth, dapat mas mapalawak ang benepisyo sa mga miyembro nito. Dapat fully ma-implement na rin ’yung outpatient benefit packages na covered ng ahensya tulad ng X-ray, MRI at madagdagan ang mga sinasagot nitong generic medicines, as well as the enhancement of benefit package for severe pneumonia acute hemorrhages,” Lee said at the budget hearing.[If PhilHealth has billions in funds, the benefits should be extended to its members. The outpatient benefit packages covered by the agency—such as X-ray, MRI and generic medicines—should be increased, as well as the enhancement of benefit package for severe pneumonia acute hemorrhages.]
Lee told Ledesma that he expected the immediate fulfillment of PhilHealth’s commitment to hospitals, and informed the PhilHealth chief that he would monitor the expansion of the agency’s healthcare package offered to PhilHealth members.
“Dapat itong tugunan ng gobyerno na pangunahing obligasyon ang kalusugan ng mga taumbayan,” Lee said. [The government must address the fact that the health of the people is its primary obligation.]