MANILA, Philippines – Amid rising cases of mental health issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is introducing this year a more “improved” mental health package for all Filipinos who are in need of interventions at the primary care level.
At the House of Representatives committee on the welfare of children hearing on Monday, February 20, PhilHealth director Dr. Albert Domingo said that the state health insurer is coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH) and mental health advocates in seeking to improve children’s access to the needed preventive and curative mental health care.
This comes as some 11,000 students have experienced bullying in schools and rising cases of suicides among them. (READ: Bullying in schools underreported, says chair of Senate education panel)
“Promoting and tracking the healthy development of a child naturally leads to the integration of many health and social services,” Domingo said.
“Ang mental health problems ng bata ay maaaring manggaling sa paghihirap sa loob ng pamilya o komunidad. Kasama dito ang mental health problems ng kanilang mga magulang, kakulangan ng pagkain o tirahan, o kaya’y mga delikadong kabahayan o paaralan,” the PhilHealth official said.
(The mental health problems of a child can be rooted from their experience inside their homes or communities. This included the mental health problems of their parents, lack of food and shelter, or a dangerous home or school.)
New outpatient program
In an online forum on Friday, February 17, PhilHealth acting vice president of corporate affairs Rey Baleña said that the new program would help make treatment and management of mental health “much more accessible.”
The program will be funded through regular contributions from members. The guidelines for this will be issued through a circular soon.
At the House hearing, Domingo said that PhilHealth already tested the outpatient mental health specialist care package that includes 12 specialist care consultations, diagnostics, psychoeducation and psychosocial support. Prospective providers of specialist services include psychiatrists, neurologists, and psychologists.
To give an idea of how the program will work, Domingo said that PhilHealth will contract accredited level 2 to level 3 referral centers for mental health.
“These referral centers will then subcontract primary care providers in the first phase of implementation. In the next phase, PhilHealth may then contract the access sites of the DOH Mental Health Medicines Access Program. This strategic contracting exercise will follow a set of standards for the proposed expanded mental health care benefit package,” he explained.
Domingo said that PhilHealth is working with DOH and all stakeholders on the findings from their field test to make sure that it would be implemented properly.
He added that PhilHealth is looking into the possibility of including mental health primary care services within the Konsulta+ package, and facilitating supply and logistics coordination among facilities through the health care provider networks to facilitate the necessary transfer of mental health goods among providers.
The Konsulta package is the agency’s primary healthcare program that includes consultation, laboratory tests, and medicines.
Currently, the state health insurer only covers up to P7,800 for patients hospitalized for certain mental health conditions, such as dementia, bipolar and anxiety disorders and schizophrenia.
Earlier this year, Baleña said that aid for mental health, therapeutic care for malnutrition, and healthcare consultations would need to be adjusted following the deferred rate hike of PhilHealth contributions.
Meanwhile, progressive group Akbayan said that it welcomes the improved benefits from PhilHealth that will “contribute in strengthening the delivery of mental health services at the primary care level.”
“This is a win for every Filipino, and for future generations of Filipinos. While there is still so much that needs to be done. We owe this development to the tireless work of mental health advocates, mental health professionals, and the champions in government who have spent years campaigning for better mental health care for our countrymen,” said Akbayan spokesperson Dr. RJ Naguit. – Rappler.com
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