By Analou de Vera
The coronavirus disease (COVID19) pandemic has brought fear and uncertainty for the past three months. Aside from challenging the capacity and capability of the world’s healthcare system, it has struck fear in the hearts of people who are worried about not being able to afford the cost of treatment.
Jeremiah (not his real name), 31, has a real problem. Both his 58-yearold parents had contracted COVID-19. His father was able to survive the disease. Unfortunately, his mother did not.
He will never forget the date March 22, 2020. It was the very last day that he saw his mother alive.
“Nung first day na pinasok ko si mama (sa ospital), ayun na rin yung last day na nakita namin siya. Hindi pwedeng dumalaw [The day I brought my mother (to the hospital), was also the last time we saw her alive. We could not visit her] given the nature of the virus, highly contagious siya,” said Jeremiah.
Jeremiah’s mother had been experiencing continuous dry cough and fever, as well as diarrhea, for a week. His father experienced fever and mild cough. On March 22, he brought his parents to a private hospital in Pasig City. That day, his mother was already experiencing shortness of breath.
Jeremiah’s parents were both hypertensive. His mother was also diabetic. When both of them tested positive for COVID-19, he was nervous.
“I was nervous because the disease is highly infectious and I’ve been reading articles that if you are hypertensive or diabetic, the fatality rate is high. The doctor told me my mom is a high-risk case because of her age group and medical condition. The chance of survival is less than 40 percent. That’s what really made me nervous,” he said.
As the eldest of four children, Jeremiah was able to get updates on his parents’ health condition through phone calls at least three to four times daily.
‘Whatever it takes’
At first, Jeremiah was quite confident that they could shoulder the hospital expenses given that all of them are working and have medical insurance. His mother was in the Intensive Care Unit given her serious condition, and confinement costs P6,000 per day.
Different tests were also conducted. The total cost of the laboratory tests was at P190,000, said Jeremiah. The attending doctor also informed him that his mother needs to undergo dialysis that costs P40,000 per session. His mother underwent four sessions. “Professional fees vary per doctor,” Jeremiah shared.
“Since our hospital bill was already big, I was thinking money can be earned but life once lost is already gone. If you are in that situation, you will just think – whatever it takes just to get your loved one home,” said Jeremiah.
“Siyempre pipiliin mo ang buhay kaysa pera. So nung nakikipag-usap kami sa doktor, anong mga planong pwedeng gawin, sinasabi nila ito ang pwedeng gawin, pero mahal. Sinasabi namin, gawin mo lang yan, Doc,” he added.
Jeremiah thought that everything would be fine soon. Their family, friends, even their church community, prayed for his parents to overcome the disease. But his mother did not make it.
“It’s difficult. I still can’t accept that mom is gone. She was a kind person. She was well-known in the community, a good daughter, wife, sister, and a parent to us. We couldn’t understand why it had to be her,” he said.
“We thought our prayers will be answered. But I guess the Lord had a different plan. Better than what we wanted,” he added.
Jeremiah’s mother was confined for 14 days before she succumbed to the disease. The total hospital bill reached P2.4 million. On the other hand, his father was discharged after one week with a corresponding bill of P200,000.
“So yung sa daddy ko nung dinischarge siya, nag- settle kami ng kaunting balance kasi sabi ng ospital for reimbursement na lang ng PhilHealth kasi ang propaganda is no balance billing,” he said. The state health insurer, meanwhile, will shoulder the full cost of treatment of his mother.
PhilHealth shouldered the full hospital expenses of COVID-19 patients until April 14. Meanwhile, beginning April 15, case rates for COVID-19 will apply.
For mild pneumonia the case rate will be P43,997; moderate pneumonia is at P143,267; severe pneumonia is at P333,519; and critical pneumonia is at P786,384.
PhilHealth spokersperson Dr. Shirley Domingo said that they have to come up with a case rate for COVID-19 so that PhilHealth will still be “sustainable.”
“We don’t know the behavior of this pandemic if the cases will still increase, if it will already plateau, or will now be on the decline. We don’t know. And therefore, we have to come out with a case rate to make it sustainable,” Domingo told Manila Bulletin.
Domingo said that for indigent patients, there are still mechanisms for them to request assistance in case they do not have the capacity to shoulder the balance of the hospital bill.
“There will be a mechanism for them to request …. So we will see how feasible it is for them to pay. We want to assure the public that whatever day, PhilHealth will help them if they will be hospitalized),” said Domingo.
With this pandemic, Jeremiah realized that it is really important to manage finances properly.
“Let’s say PhilHealth did not shoulder the cost of hospitalization, that would have cost us a huge amount although we can afford it. But I think we should have been prepared better. You need to prepare for something like this,” he said.
He also underscored the importance of building healthy relationships.
“Number one with God. Number two, with your family and friends. Be part of the community. Kasi [Because] if you are part of the community mafi-feel mo yung support na [you’ll feel the support that] they’re there for you,” he added.