MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said on Wednesday said he would want the government to help the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) guarantee access to quality healthcare for all citizens.
“Nobody will argue that whenever Filipinos get sick they need treatment. The government is here to fill the gaps [in their basic needs]. That’s why we are leaders. We will supply what is lacking,” Cayetano, speaking partly in English and Filipino, said on Wednesday.
He made the remark at a briefing of the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises on PhilHealth’s National Health Insurance Program for 2023.
According to Cayetano, six out 10 Filipinos die without ever seeing a doctor, while 99 percent of respondents in a 2019 survey said they could not buy all the medicines prescribed to them because they were too expensive.
Nationwide household out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare also amount to more than P400 billion annually, accounting for 44.7 percent of the country’s total health expenditure.
“It cannot be that Filipinos will have nobody to turn to — whether it’s a health center, whether it’s a private or public clinic. And what gives them confidence will be their membership in PhilHealth,” Cayetano said.
The senator, who chairs the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, said the Senate would be willing to explore other possible sources of additional funding – such as revenue generated from excise taxes – to help PhilHealth fulfill its mandate without necessarily requiring the premium members to pay higher contributions.
PhilHealth monthly premiums are currently set at 4 percent for members earning a minimum of P10,000 up to an income ceiling of P80,000 per month, with premiums ranging from P400 to P3,200 monthly.
For 2023, the state health insurer is proposing a P100.233 billion government subsidy, which comprises the bulk of the proposed budget of the Department of Health for next year.
Clarifying that he is not looking to blame any PhilHealth official, Cayetano said he instead wants to know how lawmakers can help the public health insurer to better serve the Filipino people.
“We all know that there are gaps that need to be filled. We are here to listen to ideas, propose solutions, and work together for the good of all PhilHealth members and all Filipinos,” Cayetano said.