Senators urge PhilHealth to pay mounting obligations to hospitals

Senators urge PhilHealth to pay mounting obligations to hospitals

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — At least four lawmakers of the Upper Chamber urged the Philippine
Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to pay mounting obligations
to hospitals to avoid a collapse in the health care system amid
the challenging pandemic scare.

In their separate statements, Senador Grace Poe, Juan Edgardo Angara,
Risa Hontiveros ang Joel Villanueva said that if most COVID referral
hospitals would withdraw from the coverage of PhilHealth, it would be
difficult for the government and the general public to cope with
raging virus.

For her, Poe said that PhilHealth must pick up the slack in settling
its mounting obligations to hospitals that compromise our healthcare
system.

“It is unjust for our frontline institutions to continue waiting for
years seemingly with no end in sight on when they can be reimbursed,”
she said.

“We expect the state health insurer to come up with an aggressive
catch-up plan for due reimbursement of claims,” she added.

The lady senator said that the delay in payment could force hospitals
to downsize or worse, halt operations, to the detriment of their
workers who will lose jobs, and our people who cannot anymore take a
heavy beating from the pandemic.

“As this unfortunate situation persists, our health system becomes
more vulnerable to being overwhelmed, especially in a pandemic,” Poe
said.

“Being the country’s only health insurer, PhilHealth should remember
its commitment to the Filipino people not to leave anyone, especially
the poor, untreated,” she ended.

Meanwhile, Angara said that these situations have been going on since
time immemorial which is a detriment to the working class, who was
automatically pays their dues without challenging the system.

“Matagal ng ni rereklamo ng mga ospital itong mabagal na pag reimburse
ng mga gastos ng mga ospital at pasyente; kelangan bilisan ng
Philhealth ang pag proseso ng claims ng mga ospital otherwise
magkakaroon tayo ng systems failure dito sa healthcare system natin;
pag di na babayaran ang health services maaaring may magsara ang
ospital at mapeperwisyo ang publiko at ang nangangailangan ng
serbisyong pangkalusugan,” Angara said.

Angara said that aside from automatic deductions from wage earners,
the government has allocated around P70 billion as a subsidy to the
state health insurer to augment dwindling resources.

“Dapat din tingnan ng ARTA o anti red tape authority ang mga proseso
ng Philhealth para alamin ang rason sa mabagal na pagbayad ng mga
health insurance claims ng mga ospital; nasa ilalim tayo ng public
health emergency kayat inexcusable o di katanggap tanggap itong
nangyayari ngayon,” Angara said.

For her, Hontiveros continued to urge Philhealth to immediately
settle the unpaid claims of many hospitals within a reasonable time
period.

Meanwhile, she also made an appeal to private hospitals to remain
committed to ensuring access to affordable healthcare. The government,
given its limited capacity to provide hospital care, should explore
options to provide crucial financial aid to hospitals at risk.

“The pandemic isn’t over yet and our current health system must be
able to serve the needy and not just those who are able to pay,” she
said.

Villanueva on the other said that PhilHealth’s delays in
reimbursing private hospitals for treating members of the state health
insurer will make it harder for hospitals to retain critical manpower.

“This is also a jobs issue. When reimbursement is slow the flight of
talent accelerates,“ Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee,
said.

PhilHealth, he added, should be the reason for retaining private
hospitals’ staff, not the cause of their departure, “especially at a
time when the pull of foreign recruiters is strong.”

When private hospitals suffer from workforce reduction, it is the
public that suffers, Villanueva said.

“You can have hospital beds but without medical staff, those beds are
reduced to pieces of furniture,” he said.

“During an epidemic, when the call is ‘all hands on deck,’ the role of
a state corporation is to ensure that frontline units operate at
optimum capacity. Parang logistical provider so that frontliners can
operate at full capacity,” he said.

“PhilHealth reimbursement is a critical part of the supply chain. Yan
ang dapat maintindihan ng gobyerno,” Villanueva said.

An official of the 700-member Private Hospitals Association of the
Philippines, Inc. (PHAPi) on Monday complained that as of August,
PhilHealth owed them P20 billion in unpaid claims.

Villanueva said PhilHealth should aim for a “zero backlog goal” in
settling reimbursement claims by the end of the year.

By failing to solve the long-festering problem of slow reimbursement,
PhilHealth is unwittingly aiding headhunters in recruiting nurses to
work abroad, Villanueva said. (ai/mtvn)

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