But urges gov’t not to compromise health services
AMID the economic impact of the pandemic on ordinary citizens, Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go has expressed his support for suspending the increase in premiums of direct contributors of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
He, however, asked the government to make sure that the health care services provided to Filipinos are not jeopardized.
During a Senate Committee on Health hearing on the Universal Health Care law and PhilHealth premium on Wednesday, February 1, Go remarked that for average Filipinos, every peso counts, and that their and their family’s survival is currently the top priority in light of global and national economic challenges.
“Sa mga ordinaryong mamamayang araw-araw na nakikipagsapalaran, ano ba ang mas mahalaga sa kanila? Ang dagdag na kontribusyon o yung mga pangunahing pangangailangan ng kanilang pamilya?” said Go.
“Kaya naman po tayo, bilang mga representante ng mga mamamayang Pilipino, obligasyon po nating makinig sa kanilang hinaing, ang magmalakasakit sa kanila, at gawin ang lahat maibsan lang ang bigat na kanilang dinadala sa araw araw. In this time, every single peso counts,” he stressed.
Moreover, given the economic effects of the pandemic, Go said it is only reasonable to suspend the premium hike.
“Mr. Chair, alam naman po natin na hindi natin inaasahan ang nangyaring pandemya at krisis na pinagdaanan natin. I am certain that when the 17th Congress included in the law the premium rate increases, no one in this Chamber knew what was about to hit us,” said Go.
“Kaya naman po sa tingin ko, nararapat lang na ipagpaliban po muna ang pagtaas sa kontribusyon sa PhilHealth para makatulong tayo sa pag-recover ng ating mga kababayan mula sa pandemya,” he added.
Go also lamented the hardships experienced by Overseas Filipino Workers especially during the pandemic.
“Karamihan po ng mga OFWs natin, umaasa ng dagdag na tulong mula sa gobyerno lalo na ‘yung mga nawalan ng trabaho o naapektuhan ang kanilang kabuhayan sa ibang bansa dahil sa pandemya,” Go said.
He continued, “In fact, namigay nga po ng tulong yung DOLE sa mga panahon na yun. Hindi naman po tama na sa panahong walang-wala sila, doon pa natin sila sisingilin ng dagdag na kontribusyon.”
The Universal Health Care law guarantees equitable access to quality and affordable health care by making all Filipinos members of the PhilHealth. However, to ensure sufficiency in funding and to keep the financial viability of PhilHealth, the UHC mandates a schedule of premium contribution rates increase until 2025.
Go noted that, at the height of the pandemic, former president Rodrigo Duterte also ordered the deferment of the implementation of the increase in PhilHealth contribution rates amid the pandemic.
Prior to this, Go appealed to government finance managers and his fellow legislators to highly consider the deferment to unburden Filipinos given the adverse socio-economic impacts of the health crisis.
“Naalala ko po, noong mga 2020, pinagpaliban rin po ni dating pangulong Duterte, twice… talagang maraming reklamo, maraming apektado nating kababayan, mga OFWs, mga nawalan ng trabaho, naghirap, umuwi,” said Go.
“Tama rin po na ipagpaliban muna natin. At nararapat na ipagpaliban na muna natin sa ngayon ang kontribusyon sa Philhealth para makatulong tayo sa pagrecover ng ating mga kababayan mula sa pandemya,” he added.
It is for these reasons, said Go, that he is also endorsing proposed bills granting the President of the Philippines the authority to suspend the scheduled increase in PhilHealth premium contribution rates specifically in times of a state of national emergency, national calamity or public health emergency.
“Lahat ng palugit na pwede natin maibigay habang tayo ay nagre-recover pa, kung maaari po ay maging flexible tayo, at ibigay po natin sa kanila,” he added.
Go also backed efforts to study the need to amend the UHC law in consideration of the concerns raised by some sectors.
“Balansehin lang natin ito para hindi rin naman mailagay sa alanganin ang kabuuang pondong pangkalusugan na makakatulong sa mas maraming Pilipino,” he said.
Meanwhile, despite his support for the suspension of the premium rate increase, Go asked relevant agencies to continue providing Filipinos with the treatment and care they are entitled to and to continue enhancing the benefits afforded to them.
“Alam naman po natin na kasabay ng pagtaas ng premium, kailangan ding i-improve ang mga benepisyo,” said Go.
Earlier, Go successfully pushed for a special provision under the PhilHealth 2023 budget indicating the use of the P21-billion budget pertaining to benefit package improvement under the Universal Health Care Act.
He proposed that this budget should be used for the expansion of free dialysis coverage, mental health outpatient coverage, the implementation of the comprehensive outpatient benefit package, including free medical check-up and other increases in benefit packages.
Go also shared that he has filed Senate Bill No. 190 mandating PhilHealth to fully cover all costs of dialysis treatments, sessions and procedures done in PhilHealth-accredited health facilities.
“Maraming lumalapit po sa aming mga opisina, humihingi ng tulong para sa dialysis, humihingi ng tulong para ma-expand ang dialysis coverage ng PhilHealth,” said Go.
Apart from the proposed Free Dialysis Act, other health-related measures also make up the bulk of Go’s priority bills filed in the 19th Congress. These include measures seeking to provide free annual medical check-up for all Filipinos and instituting the Emergency Medical Services System. He also filed a bill proposing to amend the Insurance Code to allow stricter supervision over Health Maintenance Organizations.
“Napakahalaga sa akin ng kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino. Kaya marami sa mga prayoridad na panukalang batas na aking agad na inihain ay sa aspetong ito nakatutok,” remarked the senator.