Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Twin bills to expand coverage of PhilHealth up for Senate action

MANILA-The Senate was asked today to pass twin measures aimed at expanding coverage of state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) by including the full treatment of Tuberculosis (TB) and mandating compulsory coverage to all senior citizens.

Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Ralph G. Recto said Senate Bill (SB) 711 would mandate PhilHealth to include the treatment of TB regardless if the patient is a member or not.

Recto said enrolling TB in the PhilHealth’s ‘sickness’ menu would speed-up the treatment and eradication of the disease nationwide.

“A person afflicted with TB should no longer suffer the social stigma of such sickness but should look forward to a healthier future with PhilHealth playing the role of emancipator,” Recto said.

The Senate leader noted that TB has now dislodged even the most notorious causes of death in the country by capturing sixth rank, which translates to 75 Filipinos between the age 15 to 64 dying from TB every day.

In the list of World Health Organization (WHO), the country is ranked 9th of the total 22 countries that are considered high risk for TB cases.

“The PhilHealth coverage of TB treatment would expunge the country from the WHO watch list – a list that should cause more worry than the many convoluted versions of ‘Napolist,” Recto said.

Moreover, Recto said at least P8 billion taxpayers money is lost yearly due to sickness and deaths attributed to TB.

A TB treatment costs around P8,000 to P10,000. It was estimated that about P4 billion to P5 billion is needed to ensure a TB-free population.

A companion measure to SB 711 is Recto’s proposal to also bring all senior citizens under the tutelage of PhilHealth.

Recto, in filing Senate Bill 712, wants the estimated 6.1 million lolos and lolas of the country to bring home their own PhilHealth cards.

Currently, only indigent senior citizens are qualified for PhilHealth coverage.

The mandatory coverage of all senior citizens would entail a funding requirement of P14.64 billion, which could be sourced from the agency’s National Health Insurance Fund.

“The mandatory coverage of all senior citizens would be our simple gift for the productive years that they pumped in during their heydays -- a fitting send-off to their twilight years,” Recto said.

Both TB patients and senior citizens would be unburdened of their obligation to pay monthly premiums with PhilHealth, according to the twin bills’ author.

SB 711 or Alis TB Act amends Section 12 of Republic Act No. 7875, As Amended by R.A. No. 10606, Otherwise known as “An Act Instituting a National Health Insurance Program for All Filipinos and Establishing the Philippine Health insurance Corporation for the Purpose.” SB 712, on the other hand, seeks to amend Republic Act No. 9994, Otherwise known as the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.”

As of December 2013, there were 31.27 million registered members and 45.63 million dependents totaling to 76.90 million Filipinos provided with Philhealth coverage.

For 2014, additional 14.7 Million families are being targeted to be enrolled and covered with Philhealth.

For this purpose, government subsidy of P35.338 Billion was appropriated in the 2014 national budget. This amount is higher byP22.726 Billion from the 2013 government subsidy.

The Philhealth’s Reserve Fund amounts to approximately P116 Billion.

Recto’s bills were taken up in today’s hearing by the Senate committee on Health and Demography chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III. 

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