PhilHealth should cover psychiatric consultation fees – Angara

Sofia Tomacruz

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PhilHealth should cover psychiatric consultation fees – Angara
The recent deaths of food journalist Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade have sparked calls to strengthen mental health policies worldwide

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sonny Angara on Sunday, June 10, urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to cover psychiatrists’ consultation fees to help treat and prevent mental illnesses.

Hindi dapat maging hadlang, lalo na sa mga mahihirap, ang malaking gastusin para sila ay magpatingin at magpagamot,” Angara said in a statement. (High costs should not be an obstacle, especially for the poor, when seeking consultations and medication.)

“Mental and behavioral disorders can lead to impairment in judgment, self-inflicted pain, or worse, suicide. This can be prevented,” he added.

The recent deaths of food journalist Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade have sparked calls to strengthen mental health policies worldwide.

According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization in 2011, the Philippines has the highest incidence of depression in Southeast Asia.

Angara is co-author of Senate Bill 1354 or the Mental Health Act, which aims to provide basic mental health services at the barangay level.

The bill orders the Department of Health to make pyschiatric services available in all regional, provincial, and tertiary hospitals. It also aims to “increase the capacities of mental health professionals.”

Currently, PhilHealth coverage for mental illnesses only includes a patient’s hospitalization if it is caused by acute attacks of mental and behavioral disorders. The package costs P7,800 and does not include consultations and medicines needed.

Aside from this, Angara also highlighted the lack of psychiatrists in the Philippines, which makes it more challenging to treat mental illnesses.

In 2014, University of the Philippines professor and psychiatrist Dinah Nadera told Rappler that the Philippines has about only 490 psychiatrists for a population of more than 100 million people. (READ: Only 490 psychiatrists for 100 million Pinoys)

Angara also said another challenge in treating mental illnes is ending the stigma attached to it. 

Kailangang tiyakin na ang bawat indibidwal na nakararanas ng depresyon ay napagtutuunan ng kaukulang pansin, binibigyan ng agarang atensyong medikal, at hindi iiwan hanggang sa kanyang tuluyang paggaling,” Angara said. 

(It is important to ensure that each individual who is experiencing depression is given proper care, medical attention, and will not be left behind until full recovery.)

Angara said he is optimitic the Mental Health Bill will be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte soon. The bill was transmitted to Malacañang last May 21. –

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.