Senator Manny Pacquiao has called on the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to immediately pay eight General Santos City hospitals that have threatened to bill COVID-19 patients for the full costs of their hospitalization because of their unsettled reimbursement claims that have reached nearly P1 billion since 2020.
Pacquiao told Rappler on Sunday, October 17, that PhilHealth should “immediately release what is due to these General Santos hospitals and the rest of the hospitals around the country which remain unpaid because we are at war with this pandemic, and there is no need for bureaucratic red tape in this time of crisis.”
The hospitals – Auguis Clinic and Hospital, General Santos Doctors Hospital, General Santos Medical Center, Mindanao Medical Center, RO Diagan Cooperative Hospital, Sarangani Bay Specialists Medical Center, Socsargen County Hospital, and St. Elizabeth Hospital – claimed PhilHealth owed them P834,532,820.98, reimbursement claims that piled up from 2020 up to August 31.
Pacquiao said the hospitals sought his assistance because they were already close to financial exhaustion.
Pacquiao said PhilHealth president and CEO Dante Gierran promised legislators in late August that PhilHealth would settle P17 billion of the P21-billion reimbursement claims of hospitals throughout the country.
“Has this been fulfilled? How about the remaining P4 billion?” he asked.
Dr. Renato Diagan, president of the General Santos City chapter of the Private Hospital Association of the Philippines (PHAP), said on October 14 that the hospitals have given PhilHealth until the end of October to pay up or they would ask patients to settle their bills and demand reimbursement from PhilHealth themselves.
In a joint statement, the General Santos hospitals said the “staggering amount is putting a strain on day-to-day operations amid this community’s continuing need for healthcare.”
Signing the statement were the top executives of the eight hospitals: Dr. Adora Auguis-Atilano, Dr. Remo-Tito Aguilar, Cesar Mirabueno, Dr. Daniel Yap, Dr. Felix Garces, Dr. Shalimar Cortez, Antonio Veneracion, and Dr. Diagan.
Pacquiao said the hospitals have been complaining about the delays and nonpayment of reimbursement claims for months, and the situation has been aggravated by moves to slash P1 billion from the budget for public hospitals next year.
The proposed budget cut, he said, would be on the maintenance and other operating expenses of government hospitals.
“We are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic with no end in sight and yet the budget of government hospitals would be reduced. This would deprive the people of affordable health care,” he said.
Pacquiao warned the proposal would adversely affect the operations of the Mindanao Central Sanitarium in the Zamboanga Peninsula that would lose P28.2 million of its annual budget.
Other hospitals that would be affected are the Batanes General Hospital, Region 2 Trauma and Medical Center, Bicol Regional Hospital, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and the Philippine General Hospital.
Pacquiao said the proposed budget cuts would affect all these hospitals’ COVID-19 response and treatment. –Rappler.com
Frencie Carreon is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.