Philhealth can’t be fixed with ‘wave of magic hand’ – finance chief
MANILA, Philippines— The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) has a “serious systemic problem” that could not be fixed with a wave of a magic wand, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told senators on Wednesday.
Issues hounding Philhealth such as non-payments of hospital claims were raised during the hearing of the Senate committee on finance on 2022 national budget.
Dominguez noted that President Rodrigo Duterte has already ordered the state health insurer to speed up the payments to hospitals.
“But you know, Philheath has a real serious problem with their system,” he said. “The first problem is that it’s not digitized, it’s not computerized so it’s rather difficult.”
According to the finance chief, the issue of whether or not to spend P2 billion for computerization was debated in one of the meetings of the Philhealth Board he attended.
“And there was a lot of objection and I was telling them: ‘What the heck, you’re spending over P100 billion a year, what’s P2 billion to have a good system?”
One of the concerns raised during the discussion, he said, was that it was a “sweetheart contract.”
“Well, I don’t know okay? But don’t object to spending the money for improving the system so that payments can be made so that claims can be vetted quickly,” Dominguez said.
“So it’s systemic, it’s a serious systemic problem which I think can’t be fixed with a wave of a magic wand,” the finance chief added.
It was Senator Pia Cayetano who brought up Philhealth problems during the budget hearing. In particular, she asked about the reforms being undertaken to fix Philhealth and if there are efforts to speed up its payments to hospitals.
Senator Sonny Angara, chairman of the finance committee, agreed with Cayetano’s points.
“It’s a very important issue actually. These issues are all linked, yung issue sa benefits ng health workers is linked to the delay of the payments of the reimbursable,” Angara said.
“And the very survival of the healthcare system because a lot of the small hospitals, which are an integral part of the healthcare system, cannot survive on pautang (loans) without any assurance of getting paid,” Cayetano said.
Dominguez also warned that Philhealth’s capital would be depleted quickly when its collections go lower than its payout.
A Philhealth official has already told lawmakers in the House of Representatives earlier that its “estimated actuarial life” may only last until 2027.
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