State think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or PhilHealth should cover more women and children who are considered persons with disabilities (PWDs) as its study showed that the sector has less access to health insurance.
In a statement on Wednesday, PIDS said “less than 20 percent of households with PWD women and 25 percent of families with PWD children” have access to PhilHealth.
PIDS Senior Research Fellow Celia Reyes was quoted as saying that while the government is trying to provide universal coverage, especially for the poor and the marginalized group like children and PWDs, “only 63 percent of families have at least one member enrolled at PhilHealth.”
Reyes said PhilHealth’s Z-More package, introduced in 2013 and expanded in 2016 to include those with mobility impairment, is still not enough to meet the needs of PWDs.
In a presentation, Reyes specified the need to include newborn-screening (NBS) in the expanded PhilHealth package to “facilitate early detection and intervention”, emphasizing that “undetected and untreated disorders at an early age can lead to serious illnesses or even death.”
“The expanded NBS test can detect 28 disorders from birth to six months. It is available in all hospitals, lying-in clinics, rural health units (RHUs), and private clinics. But the issue is affordability,” she said.
“With the expanded cost that amounts to P1,500, PhilHealth will only cover up to P550. This means that the excess of P950 will be shouldered by the PhilHealth member, which is quite costly for many poor mothers,” Reyes explained.
She emphasized that the Department of Health (DOH) can help RHUs buy the necessary equipment and testing materials for hearing and mental facilities.
“One reason why babies and children don’t get tested for hearing impairments is because the machine is expensive. It costs about P300,000. The Health Facilities Enhancement Program of the DOH could probably cover this,” she said.
The PIDS said its social sector expert also underscored the importance of increasing the accessibility of PWDs to health workers and facilities.
“Right now, the DOH is deploying doctors, nurses and midwives in local health facilities, but perhaps we can also encourage the agency to deploy physical therapists and EENTs, among others, in local health units,” she said.
Reyes noted it is necessary to establish and strengthen the partnership between local health units and medical schools.
Citing the results of their studies in Central Visayas, Reyes said “interns can actually complement the regular health personnel of LGUs [local government units]. One of the best practices we’ve seen in San Remigio and Mandaue in Cebu is that they partnered with medical schools nearby and these medical schools were actually able to provide interns who can man health centers.”
She urged the government to extend PhilHealth coverage to all poor PWDs and expand its benefits.
“Right now, there are still some poor PWDs who are unaware that they actually have access to PhilHealth. LGUs need to be proactive in enrolling them,” Reyes said.
Reyes said training families on long-term care for PWDs helps sensitize communities to the plight of underprivileged persons.