Low fund: Philhealth wants implementation of UHC deferred

Image from Philhealth
  • Philhealth seeks to defer the implementation of UHC
  • Philhealth cited its depleting fund due to low collection
  • But lawmakers disagreed with the proposed deferment

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) is seeking to defer the implementation of the universal health care (UHC) law due to its depleting fund as a result of a very low collection over the past months.

At the joint hearing on Tuesday, PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales told lawmakers the state health insurance service will be running on deficit towards the end of 2020 and will continue to maintain that deficit until 2024.

PhilHealthCEO Ricardo Morales |Image from CNN Philippines

Morales recommended that the implementation of UHC and the expansion of primary health care benefits under the same act be suspended temporarily as Philhealth is suffering from low collection amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our collection is actually, to tell you the truth, our collection is about 10 percent of last year. The collection from the direct contributions has dropped significantly because there were no businesses,” explained Morales.

None of the direct contributors are paying their premiums while indirect contributors depend on business activity which also suffered a downturn due to the pandemic, the official noted.

“We are falling or lacking on reserve. We anticipate our reserves to take a hit,” he added.

The Philhealth’s response to the pandemic from February 2020 to January 2021 will cost them P40.7-B alone, while their collection as of April 30, 2020 is only P46.5 billion; well below the benefit expense of P52.5 billion, he said.

Morales then proposed that Philhealth focus on the lighter expenditure of the primary healthcare like accreditation of providers.

Image from Philhealth

“If we have better data, maybe we can start to introduce later on the primary healthcare packages, depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic will play out,” he said.

But Quezon Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan, chairperson of the House health committee, did not agree with Morales’ proposal.

“With the realization that the COVID-19 pandemic has already happened…don’t we need to provide primary care packages or services now more than ever?” she told Morales.

While Tan acknowledged Morales’ concern, the lawmaker pointed out there is a need for Philhealth to focus more on services outside of the hospital, which is the primary care, in order to lessen hospitalization expenses.