Vice President Jejomar Binay on Monday vowed to improve government health services, as he noted that health services in the country have deteriorated and have become more costly based on a recent study.
“Joey Salgado, Office of the Vice President chief for media affairs, cited a report from IBON Foundation thatsaid health services have not improved at all and even became more costly.
The study showed that PhilHealth members still shell out a large amount of money for confinement, medicine and other medical needs, which defeats the purpose of PhilHealth membership.
Salgado said a Binay administration will not only improve the PhilHealth system but will also develop and implement a comprehensive health program–with emphasis on preventive health care–that is accessible to as many Filipinos, even in far-flung areas.
IBON, citing Philippine National Health Accounts (PNHA) data for 2013, said patients still had to shell out almost 70 percent for their health spending.
It said this is contrary to the administration’s claim that through PhilHealth, families belonging to the poorest or 20 percent of the population “will not have to shell out a single centavo” for public hospital services because of PhilHealth in 2012.
The research group added that this number has risen to 40 percent in 2014.
The IBON study, contained in the book “Critical Condition: Privatized Health in the Philippines,” was conducted among poor families in Metro Manila, Sorsogon, Nueva Ecija, Mindoro Oriental, Eastern Samar, Capiz, Iloilo and Negros Occidental.
Those interviewed included sponsored patients whose contributions are paid for by other individuals, the local government or government agencies, paying patients who are usually government or private sector employees and individually enrolled members, and lifetime patients who are senior citizens who have paid at least 120 monthly premium contributions.
The study showed most PhilHealth beneficiaries interviewed still bought medical paraphernalia or equipment prescribed by doctors and nurses and which were not provided by the hospital.
Some of these medical paraphernalia are breathing tubes, intravenous (IV) therapy paraphernalia such as needles, syringes, dextrose, surgical paraphernalia, birthing paraphernalia, urine bags, catheter, blood-transfusion related paraphernalia, oxygen masks, ampoule and vials, gloves and cleaning implements.
The beneficiaries also bought medicine outside the hospital as these were not available in the hospital’s pharmacy.
These included antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and drugs for pneumonia, tuberculosis, cough, allergies, dialysis, pain and fever.
In Nueva Ecija, IBON said sponsored patients complained they had to shell out a large amount for confinement.
Some borrowed money to buy prescribed medicine, while other patients asked for donations from friends and relatives, politicians and government agencies.
IBON added some patients were so desperate they borrowed from lenders who charge an interest as high as 10 to 40 percent a month.
“Even if the hospital guarantees reimbursement in part or in full for unavailable paraphernalia and drugs, patients regardless of category said that having to shell out money for their confinement is rather burdensome,” it said.
IBON added, “The interviews revealed an uneven implementation of the program. In Eastern Samar, most patients were given 100 percent coverage, while in Roxas and Iloilo no one was given 100 percent coverage.
Overall, very few sponsored patients said PhilHealth covered 100 percent of their bills and that they still had to pay the balance of the bill.
Paying patients estimated that PhilHealth covered or will cover from 26 percent to 75 percent of their bills, while no lifetime member had 100% percent of their bill covered.
While paying patients “had a positive attitude toward PhilHealth,” they complained of poor ventilation, lack of cleanliness, noise in the wards, smelly toilets and lack of beds in health facilities, IBON said.
“The health program we offer to our people supports our broad goal to attain inclusive and sustainable growth through intensive jobs-creation activities and expanded social services,” Salgado said.
He added that it is sad that IBON also noted that “the objective of socialized subsidy is not being achieved with lifetime members receiving the highest benefit payment per beneficiary on average (P1,259.52), and sponsored program members composed of poorer beneficiaries receiving the lowest benefit payment (P572.71) in 2013.”
It is sadder to note, Salgado said, that the study showed “PhilHealth has also not guaranteed reduced or zero out-of-pocket expenditures.”
“This is why we need a comprehensive health program for the people, which includes nationwide vaccination, sanitation and proper nutrition programs. In line with this, health care services should reach our brothers and sisters in far-flung areas as fast as it reaches Filipinos in urban centers. I believe it can be done. And it must be done,” he added.
Salgado said, “There should be easy access to universal health care for all. Sadly, our healthcare system is plagued by considerable inequities in access to healthcare between classes. The poor, marginalized and disadvantaged members of our society are unable to access quality healthcare. Thus, it is imperative that reforms be implemented to address these inequities.”
“As borne by the Makati [City] model, a healthy individual maximizes human potential and productivity. There should be free hospitalization for the poorest of the poor and affordable healthcare for others based on their ability to pay,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Vice President appealed to his United Arab Emirates-based fraternity brothers to continue helping him in his efforts to push reforms and find ways to make the poor benefit from the nation’s macroeconomic progress.
He made the appeal during the general membership meeting and fellowship night of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) UAE ’96 & APO EMARAT 121 last Wednesday.
Binay expressed hope that the APO will continue helping him in his quest to establish a nation that can provide a better quality of life for every Filipino.
Joining the group during his college days at the University of the Philippines-Diliman and credits it as one of the reasons for his victory in the 2010 elections, he said it was the duty of the members to protect the future of the nation.