The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) through its Charity Assistance Department (CAD) has reported on Tuesday that it spent a total of P797.6 million for the Individual Medical Assistance Program (IMAP) in February.
“Of the P797.6 million, the [PCSO] head office released P450.1 million for 13,299 cases while the branch offices released P347.5 million for 28,272 cases,” PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan reported.
Compared with February last year, the IMAP allocation of PCSO head office rose by 25.8 percent from P357.7 million to P450.1 million, serving from 10,533 cases to P13,299 cases.
As for the branch offices, it rose by 30.89 percent from P265.5 million to P347.5 million, serving from 21,833 cases to 28,201 cases this year.
Balutan explained that of all the cases received at the head office, hospitalization or confinement had the highest amount spent in February at P185.7 million for 4,766 cases, followed by chemotherapy at P129.5 million for 2,784 cases, and requests for medicines at P55.5 million for 3,140 cases.
As for the branch offices, hospitalization also had the highest amount spent at P173.23 million for 12,216 cases, followed by requests for medicines at P97.78 million with 9,460 cases, and laboratory/diagnostic procedures at P15.26 million with 2,688 cases.
At present, PCSO has 63 branches across the country with the opening of seven new branches last year in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Catanduanes, Sultan Kudarat, Eastern Samar, Biliran, Davao del Norte, and Ifugao.
“Our target for year 2018 is to open eight new branches more. If we accomplish this, we only need to build 10 more in the coming years and before 2022, we would have established a branch in [each of the]81 provinces,” said Balutan.
While hospitalization is the most requested assistance, dialysis cases are very alarming in the branch offices. From one case last year, dialysis rose to 915 cases in February this year amounting to P7.18 million.
Meanwhile, no transplant request was reported in the branch offices in February as compared with the 12 transplant requests last year.
When it comes to requests per region, Region 3 has the most number of cases with 5,176 cases, followed by Region 4-A with 4,573 cases, and Region 6 with 2,976 cases.
How to avail the IMAP through ASAP Desks
The IMAP or the Individual Medical Assistance Program is a flagship program of PCSO under the CAD. It is designed to attend to the financial needs of all individuals with health-related problems through the provision of financial assistance.
PCSO issues a guarantee letter to the hospital or partner health facility, which assumes the obligation of a specific amount due from the patient for the services rendered.
PCSO ASAP Desks is a point of access to IMAP established through a partnership between the agency and hospitals that directly provide various health interventions to patients.
“The understanding of every individual is when you have a financial or hospitalization problem, you go to the head office or branch office to file. ASAP Desk was conceived in response to the growing number of individuals who seek assistance for health-related concerns, to address the long queues and the long lead-time for interview and relieve them of the requirement for a personal appearance at the PCSO offices,” explained Charity Sector assistant general manager Dr. Larry Cedro who is the brains behind this project.
ASAP Desk is being manned by a hospital/health facility social worker employed and trained by PCSO. The social worker evaluates and acknowledges the application then do the profiling of patients to establish socio-economic condition and classification.
Once the data has been established, the social worker emails them to PCSO. The social worker’s job is only limited to appreciating the information given and determine the amount needed for endorsement.
Once approved, the funds are transmitted to the hospital (or its account) which will then credit the amount to the patient’s hospital bills or medicines.
However, the amount of assistance being approved depends on the social status of the patient based on PCSO classification. For example, if a patient belongs to Class A, he will only get 50 percent assistance based on net/case rate. If he belongs to Class F, he may get 100 percent.
“The purpose of ASAP is to hasten the delivery of service. It is not a separate program. It is still IMAP. It is just a vehicle of our IMAP,” clarified Cedro.
Apparently, there had been issues of erring hospital social workers and those who give preference or priority to their relatives, friends, or close acquaintances.
“That’s the assumption. I will use the term ‘assumption’ kasi wala pa namang documented case or complaint about it. And at the same time, the role of the social worker is to assess. We [PCSO] are still the approving authority, how much to approve, if still within our capacity. And we also have control mechanisms for that,” said Cedro.
On PCSO hiring its own registered social worker to man the ASAP Desks to address those issues, Cedro personally thinks this is not a possibility or the direction in the future.
“First and foremost, it will entail a lot of financial requirements. Number one is plantilla. We operate within an approved organizational plantilla. We really wanted to decentralize our services and to minimize cost on the part of PCSO. If you will notice, by expanding the coverage we were able reach out for more with the current pool of employees that we have, so I don’t see it that way,” he explained.
The Charity Sector assistant general manager revealed that they have been receiving complaints regarding erring hospital social workers filed through 888 Hotline and already they have called the attention of the personnel and hospitals involved in the controversy.
“We write to them. We comply with the requirements and let them explain and then we validate their answers as well. We remind them of the protocol – they are the extension of the government in a way. The expectation from them is similar to what we do,” he further revealed.
Cedro added that he already received reports that those social workers were already sanctioned (e.g. rotated or replaced) because of the complaints, and with the public’s empowerment through social media and other mediums, PCSO is more conscious and aware of the public’s feedback.
This year, PCSO has allocated P3.6 billion for ASAP Desk. At present, there are 57 PCSO ASAP Desks in partner hospitals and facilities all over the country.
How to avail of the endowment fund
Apart from the IMAP, patients can also avail of the Endowment Fund from the hospital.
Endowment Fund is a direct financial assistance being given to the hospital to help them address the financial obligations of patients admitted in the charity ward of a hospital.
The fund is based on the hospital’s classification, which is determined by the Department of Health (DOH). Level 3 hospitals have P5 million allocation, Level 2 gets P3 million, and Level 1 gets P1 million.
However, Endowment Fund is limited to government hospitals only, both Department of Health retained and devolve hospitals of local government units; however, there had been issues again that only relatives of hospital workers are being given priority and preference of this Endowment Fund.
“[Anomaly in the] Endowment Fund, I doubt it . Kasi ang client base natin is indigents talaga. There’s no way for them to take such approach or the idea that it will be limited because if you will visit [government hospital]majority makikita mo talaga na ang mga nagpupunta doon ay indigent patients,” said Cedro.
Balutan assured the public that PCSO chooses no one whether you’re rich or poor.
“As long as you are Filipino [then you are qualified]. Even if you’re rich if you suffer catastrophic illnesses, your bank savings will be drained. PCSO will help you. You can even ask for more,” GM Balutan said.
PCSO has now simplified the requirements for those seeking medical assistance. Applicants will only need to submit a medical abstract, statement of account, letter from the hospital, and personal letter from the applicant minus the social case study.