MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will shoulder the hospital expenses of Filipinos should they be diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“Babayaran ng PhilHealth ang mga medical expenses nila, especially our public health workers. Gusto natin bigyan ng confidence at peace of mind ang ating mga health workers para sila ay makapag focus sa kanilang trabaho,” PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales said in a Malacañang press briefing aired on state-run PTV-4 on Thursday, March 26.
(PhilHealth will shoulder their medical expenses, especially our public health workers. We want to give our health workers the confidence and peace of mind so they can focus on their work.)
Morales said that he cannot identify a definite set of benefits yet but gave assurances that PhilHealth will pay for “whatever it takes.”
“Hindi pa natin na fo-focus lahat ‘yun kung ano ang gagastusin kasi iba-iba naman yung protocol na ginagamit sa ospital. May sarili silang procedures diyan (We haven’t ironed out yet the coverage of expenses since every hospital has different protocols. They have their own procedures),” Morales added.
Under the recently signed Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, PhilHealth was directed to shoulder all medical expenses of public and private health workers exposed to the coronavirus disease, as well as work-related injuries that occur during the state of national emergency.
Confined in hospitals
Morales said that persons under investigations (PUI) and persons under monitoring (PUM) are also covered by PhilHealth benefits.
“Ang hindi natin masasagot ay ang mga naka self-quarantine sa bahay. Ang mga nakaconfine lang ang masasagot ng PhilHealth (We cannot cover those who are under self-quarantine in their homes. The PhilHealth can only cover those who are confined in hospitals),” Morales added.
Asked if COVID-19 testing is also covered by PhilHealth, Morales said, “It has to be prescribed by a health professional.” (READ: FDA warns public vs unregistered coronavirus home test kits sold online)
“Hindi natin sasagutin ang mga self-testing dahil ang pagakakintindi ko diyan ay kailangan ng laboratory procedure ito e so dapat ay dadaan sila sa clinic o ospital na identified by the Department of Health,” Morales added.
(We cannot cover the cost of self-testing because from what I understand testing has to done with laboratory procedure so they have to go to a clinic or hospital identified by the Department of Health.)
No balance billing policy
Based on PhilHealth's “No Balance Billing (NBB) Policy,” Filipinos diagnosed with COVID-19 should not be made to shell out extra money. “Lahat no balance blling. Kasi ngayon universal health care tayo e lalo na ang mga tatamaan ng COVID-19 ay wala silang dapat ilabas na pera,” Morales said.
The NBB “provides that no other fees or expenses shall be charged or to be paid for by the indigent patients above and beyond the package rates during the confinement period.”
PhilHealth earlier announced that it was releasing P30 billion budget to its accredited hospitals amid the coronavirus outbreak. Will this be enough to cover all the hospital expenses?
"Yes. It's like a cash advance which hospitals can draw from for any COVID-19-related expenses including testing," Morales said in a text message sent to Rappler.
Morales said that PhilHealth has so far released P1.6 billion to accredited hospitals to help them fight the virus.
“This is part of ‘yung P30 billion na kinakasa ng PhilHealth para maka-preposition tayo ng pondo sa mga ospital (This is part of the P30 billion that the PhilHealth is prepareing to preposition the funds in hospitals)," he explained.
He added that they will hold off in sanctioning hospitals with violations. "Ang importante ay meron silang pondo para kung kinakailangan eh may magagamit sila (What is important is that they have funds to use whenever they need)," he said.
Under the Universal Health Care Law, PhilHealth is tasked with implementing the National Health Insurance Program, which covers all Filipino citizens.
In line with this, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) had already been identified as one of the main sources of funding for PhilHealth.
On Wednesday, March 25, the PCSO was directed to transfer P420.5 million to PhilHealth for the treatment of coronavirus patients. (READ: PCSO turning over P420 million to PhilHealth for coronavirus response)
As of Wednesday, the Philippines has 636 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 38 deaths and 26 recoveries. – Rappler.com