PhilHealth pressed to continue free dialysis coverage for all patients amid pandemic

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday, May 10 renewed her appeal to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to continue the 144-day dialysis coverage for all patients while the country remains in a state of emergency due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Hontiveros said that while the modular hemodialysis facility for COVID-19 positive patients at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) is a welcome development, it is inadequate to ease the burden of other dialysis patients who are unable to work or who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

Sessions for COVID-positive patients can cost up to P30,000 a week, according to advocacy group DialysisPH president, Rey Abacan, Jr. while regular dialysis sessions range from P12,000 to P15,000 a week.

“Chronically ill patients should not be turned into collateral damage of the pandemic,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“So much time, attention and resources are being taken away from them, even if their lives were already on the line before the pandemic. These patients are in critical condition, they cannot wait for additional resources. They need treatment immediately,” she stressed.

She said PhilHealth must review its policies in consideration of the horror stories of hospitals, most which are now full and could no longer accept new patients.

“Hindi lang COVID ang pumapatay sa mga Pilipino ngayon. Marami sa mga kababayan natin ang naiiwan, at tuluyan, ay namamatay habang nakatutok tayo sa COVID-19 lamang (It’s not only COVID that kills Filipinos these days. Most of our fellowmen are neglected and eventually die because we are more focused on treating those with COVID-19),” she said.

The senator also said PhilHealth should upgrade its benefit package from 90 free dialysis sessions to 144 while hospitals continue to remain overwhelmed.

The coverage should also include personal protective equipment (PPEs), the COVID-19 testing required before their sessions, as well as other supply costs being passed on to patients.

The lawmaker also said it is important for the Senate to reevaluate the budget for the health department and to make considerable increases for diseases and health programs other than COVID-19.

“This is an opportunity to strengthen our healthcare system. We are feeling the effects of a slashed budget for the Health Department now that we are in the middle of a health crisis,” she said.

“I hope we learn from this experience because the price of our wrong priorities is too steep to pay. No one should get left behind by our pandemic response,” Hontiveros reiterated.