By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Citing that COVID-19 “knows no deadline”, lawmakers urged on Thursday, April 9 the state-owned Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) to shoulder all the hospitalization expenses of COVID-19 patients even after April 14.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the Philhealth’s decision to set four cost limits for treating patients with pneumonia and coronavirus disease starting Wednesday would only put poor and middle class patients at a losing end.
“I am worried of the poor and even the middle class who certainly cannot afford hospitalization and medicines which, based on the account of some who have recovered from the disease, can run to more than a million pesos,” he said in a statement.
“I refuse to imagine what could happen to them,” Rodriguez said, noting that two weeks ago, Philhealth chief Ricardo Morales disclosed that Philhealth would shoulder the medical expenses of all COVID-19 patients and allotted P30 billion for such initiative.
Citing Morales’ announcement, Rodriguez said the case limits are P43,997 for mild pneumonia; P143,267 for moderate pneumonia; P333,519 for severe pneumonia; and P786,384 for critical pneumonia/COVID-19.
The poor and even the middle class cannot pay the excess of the limits set by Philhealth, Rodriguez said.
In a Viber message, Anakalusugan partylist Rep. Mike Defensor agreed with Rodriguez that all COVID-19 patients should receive all-out medical assistance from the government.
The chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts thumbed down Morales’ decision to impose case limits.
“It should be actual cost. The problem of the case rate is that when the cost is lower the hospitals charge the whole package. It has happened before and it continues with pneumonia. For example, patient cost is only P5,000, but the case rate is P15,000, the hospitals still collects the whole P15,000. That was why there was no audit report in 2019,” Defensor said.
He noted that the national government has given Philhealth P60 billion for this year outside of individual contributions which is about P140 billion.
“So in this situation, the government should go all out and not put a ceiling especially, for the low and middle classes,” Defensor said.
For her part, Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro asked Philhealth to revoke its memorandum stating after shouldering the full cost of treatment of COVID-19 cases until April 14, 2020, it will provide financial coverage to COVID cases thru a recomputed case rate.
She was referring to Advisory No, 2020-022, which she said, must be immediately junked.
“Coverage of testing and treatment of COVID-19 patients should not end until April 14 especially since we do not see the COVID -19 pandemic to end then,” Castro said.
“Bakit humingi pa ng emergency powers ang Presidente kung hindi rin naman niya ito gagamitin at pagbabayarin pa rin ang mga mamamayan para sa pagpapagamot at pagpapatest ng COVID-19?,” she asked.
(Why did the President ask for emergency powers if he won’t use this and the people will be asked to pay for their treatment and testing for COVID-19?)
Castro said Section 4(b) of Republic Act No. 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act” specifically provides that
PhilHealth must cover the cost of treatment for COVID-19 patients.
“The COVID-19 virus knows no deadline and won’t hesitate from infecting people after April 14 even April 30 or until government take necessary steps in stopping the spread of the virus,” she said.
“How does government expect to stop the further spread of the virus if the people are more afraid of the medical cost for testing and treatment of COVID-19 than the virus itself? Without mass testing, quarantine, isolation and testing facilities in communities, and without assurance that treatment for COVID-19 will not bury families in huge debt from medical cost, government will not succeed in defeating this virus,” Castro added.
She agreed with her colleagues that middle income families also need assistance with COVID-19 medical cost, since not all can afford health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and can shoulder the cost of hospitalization and treatment of COVID-19.
“PhilHealth CEO Brig. Gen. Ricardo Morales had admitted that medical cost for COVID-19 testing and treatment can reach up to P3.2 million. With that cost, there would be people who would be more afraid of the cost for its testing and treatment of COVID-19 than being infected by the virus,” she said.