Friday, February 18, 2011

Philhealth bankrupt issue is impossible-Recto

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, February 18, 2011-Sen. Ralph G. Recto, Senate ways and means chair, yesterday said that with retained earnings of Php110 billion from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will fall to the ground as professed by the treasury department of the agency, it is impossible that it would go bankrupt, saying that “Malaking kalokohan ‘yan na malulugi sila.”

He said that the company took to task the management of the PhilHealth for feeding disinformation that it would go bankrupt if its retained earnings would be allocated to addressing the healthcare infrastructure shortage in the country, stressing that PhilHealth is even about to commit a great disservice by increasing the premiums paid by members while clutching eagle-like to its “retained earnings.”

Recto said that to expand coverage and subsidize low-income poor workers they will increase the members’ contributions when they have more than enough funds.

“PhilHealth could even keep its closely guarded retained earnings and not allocate it to plug the deficit in healthcare infrastructure as long the funds would be used to increase the benefits of members,” he said, adding that we can’t be instantly charitable (to the poor members) when you don’t want to open your retained earnings for a noble purpose like reducing the shortage in healthcare infrastructure like barangay clinics and hospitals, which would benefit a great deal of people.

PhilHealth Senior Treasury Manager Evangeline Racelis in a recent Senate hearing said that the agency would practically burn to the ground if the proposed measure of Recto is enacted into law.

Recto’s bill, Senate Bill 2653, seeks to earmark one-half of PhilHealth’s retained earnings or reserve funds to the health department’s Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP).

“The 2011 national budget DOH’s funding for HFEP is only at P7.143 billion, but it said it needs more or less double or triple the amount to wipe out the backlog,” Recto said, adding that HFEP aimed to enhance the capacity of primary healthcare facilities such as barangay health stations, rural health centers and government hospitals, which is at the frontlines of the public healthcare system.

During previous budget hearings in the Senate, Recto said that it was no less than the top officials of PhilHealth who claimed that the state agency has retained earnings of about P110 billion, saying that now is the time to tap these funds and put them to better use.

“The DOH and PhilHealth should complement each other in improving the delivery of healthcare services to the people,” he said.

PhilHealth has a total of 21.65 million registered members, the bulk of which come from the private sector (7.41 million) as of June 2010 where their contributions range from P50 for those receiving P4,999.99 and below and as much as P375 for those receiving P 30,000 and above.

As proposed by the DOH, the contributions will be increased to 3.5 percent of the members’ salaries from the current 2.5 percent. (Jason de Asis)

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