Go appeals for deferment of PhilHealth contribution increase

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 4, 2021   •   272

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Christopher ‘Bong’ Go has appealed for the deferment of the contribution rate increase of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

The senator said he already discussed with Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Wendel Avisado to review the possible budget augmentation of the government. This is to avoid affecting the Universal Health Care budget with the deferment.

“The government, as a whole, must do its best to unburden Filipinos by shouldering the cost while ensuring that the UHC law is implemented and the services of PhilHealth are unhampered,” he said in a statement.

Go added that another option is to propose an amendatory bill that will specifically address the specific provision in the UHC law mandating the said increase. 

President Rodrigo Duterte also agreed with the said deferment, according to Go, especially when the country is still facing a pandemic. AAC

Duterte orders PhilHealth to speed up payment of hospital claims — Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 8, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to fast-track the payment of its obligations to hospitals, Malacañang said Thursday.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte directed the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to expedite the payment of valid claims of hospitals today, April 8, 2021,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

PhilHealth president Dante Gierran earlier said that the state insurer has yet to complete the processing of unpaid hospital claims.

Meanwhile, Roque announced that PhilHealth approved the application of a debit-credit payment method (DCPM) to facilitate the settlement of accounts payable to Health Care Facilities (HCFs) during the state of public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“HCFs eligible for DCPM must be located in IATF and NTF identified regions, such as the National Capital Region, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal,” Roque said.

The Palace official said these HCFs must have no Interim Reimbursement Mechanism Fund balance on record.

“They must be attending to COVID-19 patients or providing the SARS-COV-2 testing package and their accreditation is not suspended during the applicable period,” he said.

“Through this measure, we are confident there would be continuous delivery of healthcare services, especially in identified areas of concern, amid the rising number of coronavirus active cases,” he added.

Saliva-based RT-PCR tests now covered by Philhealth – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   April 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has directed the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to come up with mechanisms to cover saliva-based RT-PCR tests for COVID-19.

The DOH issued the directive as it released guidelines on the use and administration of saliva-based RT-PCR testing on Tuesday.

Under a memorandum dated March 31, the DOH ordered the state insurer to “develop appropriate payment and provider engagement mechanisms” for the test.

“No payment shall be charged to patients beyond the PhilHealth coverage for the conduct of saliva-based RT-PCR testing,” read a document signed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

In a statement on Tuesday, the DOH announced that the country is now officially allowing the use of saliva-based tests for COVID-19 “in pursuit of expanding the country’s testing capacity and ensuring immediate and efficient implementation of PDITR strategies.”

Under the DOH Department Memorandum (DM) No. 2021-0161, only licensed COVID-19 laboratories certified by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) are allowed to perform saliva-based RT-PCR.

“Furthermore, point-of-care clinics, specimen collecting facilities, and disease reporting units can perform saliva specimen collection, provided that the specimen collectors have undergone training from the referral licensed COVID-19 laboratory certified to perform saliva testing,” it said.

Only test kits validated by the RITM or other RITM-recognized laboratories can be used for saliva tests. These kits should also have a special certification from the Food and Drug Administration.

The DOH also reiterated that “only trained saliva specimen collectors” should administer the test and “only medical doctors should interpret the results of these tests.”

“Results need to be correlated with the overall clinical and epidemiological context of the patient,” it added.

The DOH said saliva tests should only be done on certain conditions and are deemed valid when such conditions are met.

“As stipulated in the guidelines, morning saliva is preferred as specimen due to higher viral load but this should not prevent specimen collection at any other time,” it said.

“Proper collection procedure should also be strictly observed where patients should not eat, drink, brush their teeth, use mouthwash or smoke for at least 30 minutes before sample collection,” it added.

The agency, however, maintained that nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab specimens remain the standard specimen for the diagnosis of COVID-19 through RT-PCR testing.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) first rolled out saliva testing in January after securing government approval. The humanitarian organization offers the saliva test at P2,000 each.

Duterte wants RT-PCR test, isolation in PhilHealth insurance coverage

Marje Pelayo   •   April 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has expanded the coverage of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) for COVID-19 patients.

To ease patients’ financial burden, the President asked PhilHealth to include COVID-19 testing, isolation, and hospitalization services into the agency’s health insurance coverage.

“Nagbigay ng direktiba ang ating presidente sa Philippine Health Insurance Corp. na kasama sa health insurance coverage ang RT-PCR test, isolation sa accredited community isolation units at hospitalization para sa mild at critical cases ng COVID-19,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

The Palace spokesman said under the country’s testing protocol, RT-PCR tests will be subsidized by the government through PhilHealth for medical and economic frontliners, and those with high exposure to COVID-19 as well as those with symptoms.

“At most, ang babayaran ninyo po ay P300. So, ang bayad po diyan ay Philhealth kaya nga po bilyon-bilyong, ang single largest expenditure ng Philhealth. Hindi naman po tama na sabihin natin na hindi tayo nakakapagbigay ng libreng testing sa ating mga kababayan,” Roque said.

“Wala pong dahilan para hindi Philhealth ang magbayad ng inyong PCR test kung qualified ka makakuha ng PCR test,” he added.

Roque also stressed that PhilHealth should cover patients staying in temporary tents in hospitals and consider them as cases of in-patient care. -MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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