Wednesday, January 22, 2014

PNoy and Philhealth: Indurate to the people’s plight

Manila, Philippines -- Kilos Bayan Para sa Kalusugan (KBK), an organization of community health advocates, slammed the Aquino government anew for backing the premium increase of Philhealth amid effects of disasters and continuous increases in taxes, fuel, electricity and rice prices. Most prominent of which are the P4 per kilowatt hour increase of Meralco and the P1 per kilo increase in the price of commercial rice.

Calling the Aquino government “indurate to the plight of the Filipino people,” Albert Pascual, KBK spokesperson said no amount of explanation can justify the increase posed by Philhealth amid rising cost of basic commodities and abject poverty.

Philhealth monthly premiums will increase from P175 to P200 for employed members while self-employed members’ contributions will increase from P150 to P200 effective January 2014.

Pascual said the Filipino people has lost confidence in Philhealth because “it merely serves as a milking cow” of corrupt officials.

He argued how Philhealth executives could conscribe the new increase following the highly polemic P1.65 billion worth of allowances the agency granted to its board members, executives and contractors in 2012. “Philhealth’s argument that their bonuses are legal is unacceptable in the eyes of a hungry family or a sick person who cannot have himself treated in a hospital because he does not have the money to do so,” Pascual lamented.

As public officials, they [Philhealth] should have been sensitive enough to the plight of the entire nation than to gratify themselves of fat paychecks and bonuses. Instead of justifying a scrofulous act and wasting millions of members’ funds for full page ads in newspapers, those officials should return the money and let it be used for direct health services in public facilities,” he explained.

On top of its own income made up largely by member premiums and local government counterparts, Philhealth brought home the largest chunk of government subsidy that amounted to P11.97 billion or a third of the P35.4 billion total spending for subsidies.

Philhealth is not the answer to attaining access to health services because health services and facilities in majority of Philippine public hospitals are very limited and mostly unavailable,” he said. Hence, so-called Philhealth benefits “become useless,” Pascual added.

He noted that in its Financial Statement dated September 2013, Philhealth reported a benefit payment of P10.871 billion to the private sector and P5.564 to the government sector. Pascual explained that the notable difference simply demonstrates how Philhealth is more maximized in private hospitals than government-run health facilities where majority of poor people go.

This goes to show that Philhealth is useless and the government should just channel these funds to public hospitals and other state-run health facilities in the country,” Pascual shared.

Furthermore, KBK believes that through Philhealth, the government places the “burden of expenses to health care among people who hardly make enough to provide for their family’s needs.”

Pascual asserted that Philhealth is not the answer to the lack of access to health services and maintained the agency should instead be abolished. ##