Labor group warns Stella Quimbo: Privatizing PhilHealth a backwards move
MANILA, Philippines — A labor group has cautioned Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo against moves to privatize the corruption-riddled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) as it is a step against assuring healthcare availability.
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) explained in a statement on Thursday that while it is supporting Quimbo’s crusade to clean PhilHealth which has been rocked by corruption allegations, her proposed measure to privatize the state-owned insurer would make things worse.
Quimbo on Wednesday filed House Bill No. 7429 or the Social Health Insurance Crisis Act of 2020, which will allow a sitting President to reorganize, privatize the entire PhilHealth or segments of it.
“We are one with Rep. Stella Quimbo in seeking ways to reform the corruption-riddled state institution for health insurance. But the solution to the healthcare malaise caused by the abuse of the case rate system is to rollback the profit-oriented private healthcare sector,” BMP president Leody de Guzman said.
“The proposal for Philhealth privatization would only worsen its present defects. People before profit! This could be done by increasing government ownership of hospitals or through its outright nationalization, and by instituting and implementing open and transparent regulatory measures for Philhealth transactions,” he added.
According to De Guzman, not all Filipino workers have the luxury of applying for health maintenance organizations (HMOs) which acts like a health insurer separate from PhilHealth.
Aside from the fact that not all employers offer HMO packages, he noted that some workers whose jobs have the privilege of having HMO companies shy away because of high premium payments in contrast to low salaries.
De Guzman also stressed that one of the primary requirements for HMO eligibility is for an employee to be regularized — which adds burden as regularization is not practiced by several companies and industries.
“Kaunti lang ang may medical insurance sa anyo ng HMO sa ating mga kababayan para mayroong pampaospital kapag naaksidente o nagkasakit. Mahal kasi ang premium at mababa ang sweldo ng mga manggagawa,” he said.
(Not all have medical insurances in the form of HMOs which could enable them to afford hospitalization during accidents and sickness. Premiums are expensive while the salaries of workers are low.)
“Kaya inuuna ang pang-araw-araw na pangangailangan bago ang balang araw at posibleng gastusin sa pagpapaospital,” he added.
(That’s why people prioritize daily needs before possible expenses in the future like hospitalization costs.)
Quimbo, a member of the minority bloc and a known opposition lawmaker, has been very vocal about the myriad of issues PhilHealth is facing. After the corruption allegations against PhilHealth officials surfaced, one official said that the government-controlled corporation is bound to collapse in 2022 if the COVID-19 pandemic does not end.
However, Quimbo stressed that the agency would not collapse as it had overestimated its expenses due to COVID-19 — slated at P45 billion. The lawmaker, an economist and an economics professor before running for Congress in 2019, said that her computations were only at P3.2 billion.
Quimbo explained that the P45 billion expense projection is bloated because it assumes that all coronavirus-infected patients would be hospitalized, when in fact the majority of the cases are just displaying mild symptoms.
She added that this overestimation just opens the way for corruption.
Still, De Guzman urges Quimbo to reconsider the move, as much of the world is actually shifting to government-owned health insurance programs, to make healthcare more accessible — which contradicts the essence of universal healthcare.
“We would like to remind Teacher Stella that the world is already transitioning towards fully-state funded healthcare systems. The privatization of Philhealth is an anachronistic move that will only further relegate us to developmental backwaters,” De Guzman stressed.
“Hospital care and outpatient services would be inaccessible to those who could not pay medical bills to private hospitals and could not afford costly insurance premiums to private health maintenance organizations or HMOs. Proof of this is the healthcare system in the United States,” he added. [ac]
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