Monday, September 22, 2014

Automatic insurance coverage for senior citizens hurdles Senate

The Senate today approved on third and final reading a bill providing mandatory insurance coverage to Filipinos 60 years and above regardless of their social or economic status.

Senate Bill 712, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and sponsored by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, seeks to provide automatic Philippine Health Insurance coverage to all senior citizens.

Currently, only indigent senior citizens are entitled to PhilHealth coverage under Republic Act (RA) 7432, as amended by RA 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

“As of June of this year, PhilHealth has covered 3.9 million senior citizens as lifetime members, dependents, sponsored or indigents,” Guingona said in this sponsorship speech.

However, Guingona said that around 2.16 million senior citizens have yet to get health insurance coverage.

“The government will need about P5.2 billion annually to provide the remaining 2.16 million citizens with insurance. But this amount is small when we compare to the hope we would give to our grandparents. This is a small price to pay for the promise of universal health care we have promise our citizens,” Guingona said.

“The way we treat our aging citizens, and how we spare them from the misery brought by lack of access to health services, is reflective of a nation’s collective character” he added.

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said that the health-related measure “will advance the health of millions of Filipinos, and will uphold their right towards effective and easily attainable medical services.” 
"I share the belief that the country's elderly population must be provided with accessible and sufficient health care that will help them in their twilight years, and we can attain it by enrolling every senior citizen in Philhealth," Drilon said.
For his part, Recto said that PhilHealth coverage should be automatic and not optional for senior citizens.

According to Recto, PhilHealth, which has P116 billion in reserves and P62 billion in income as of December 31, 2013, can more than afford to provide insurance to the country’s elderly citizens.

“Only six in every 100 Filipinos today are 60 years old and above. Many of these six million “dual citizens” are already under the PhilHealth umbrella through various schemes. But there are many who fall between the cracks and this bill seeks to shut close the gaps,” Recto said.

Recto said the national government has been providing funds to PhilHealth to enroll sponsored members. He said the national government provided P12.6 billion for sponsored members in 2013, P35.34 billion for 2014 and an estimated P37.06 billion for 2015.

“Let me remind you that insuring our elderly should not be viewed as a revenue loss. Rather, it should be viewed as a productive expenditure and debt paid to those who gave the best years of their lives so ours will be better,” he said.

“”They are our senior citizens and it is time that we paid them back. They have invested in our future and they are entitled to dividends. This bill settles but a small portion of what we owe them. No obligation is more outstanding,” he added.

Once the measure is enacted into law, Recto said, senior citizens need not present a PhilHealth card to avail of its benefits. He said senior citizens need only to present a valid ID to be provided with health care. (Pilar Macrohon)

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