P12.6B set for 20M poor PhilHealth beneficiariesBy Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
President Benigno Aquino III has allocated P12.61 billion in the proposed national budget for 2013 to fund PhilHealth premiums of poor families, Sen. Franklin Drilon said on Friday.
If approved by Congress, some 5.3 million poor families—or more than 20 million beneficiaries—will have access to free medical treatment in government hospitals starting next year.
Drilon is the chair of the Senate committee on finance now conducting hearings on the government expenditure program for 2013.
These families would be identified through the National Household Targeting System of the government.
“The 2013 budget provides for P12.61 billion to secure the enrollment of about 5.3 million families in PhilHealth at P2,400 per annum per family. The beneficiaries can reach up to 20 million or even more for the PhilHealth card can be used by the principals’ spouse and their minor children,” Drilon said.
“The government will fully pay the health premiums of indigent patients to widen their access to proper medication. It is disturbing to know that, in this modern day, there are still a great number of Filipinos who do not have access to immediate health care,” he added.
Drilon said indigent patients could be freed from financial worries “with the new PhilHealth rates payment scheme already in place.”
This provides for a no-balance billing policy for 23 medical cases which include, among others, dengue, pneumonia, asthma, typhoid fever and appendectomy, he said.
The senator added that a Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion issued in March 2012, which authorized the use of P8.3 billion by the government to fully subsidize the PhilHealth premiums of indigent patients for the current year, would still be in effect in the 2013 budget.
Drilon said that under the 2012 General Appropriations Act, “the full release of national government full premium subsidy was subjected to the issuance of a DoJ opinion stating that the move to fully subsidize the health premiums of indigent patients will not violate the National Health Insurance Act (NHIA).”
Drilon moved last year to strike out a budgetary provision that sought the passage of an amendment in the said law before this full national government premium subsidy could be implemented.
He said the NHIA “does not hinder the government to provide full subsidy for premium contributions of indigents and the provision being proposed then was contrary to the primary intent of the law.”
“The provision of a health insurance to the poorest Filipinos is consistent with the government’s goal to implement the Universal Health Care,” Drilon said.
“That is the very reason why I proposed the deletion of a budgetary provision in the 2012 budget saying an amendment to the National Health Insurance Act is necessary before the government can fully subsidize the health premiums of indigent families,” he added.
Indigent families are classified as “sponsored members,” a category of less privileged families belonging to the “lowest 25 percent of the Philippine population,” according to the PhilHealth website (http://www.philhealth.gov.ph/members/sponsored).
PhilHealth coverage provides “subsidies for hospital room and board fees, drugs and medicines, laboratory exams, use of operating room complex and professional fees for confinements of not less than 24 hours.”