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Solon pushes for separate PhilHealth plan for seniors

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Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda pushed for a separate senior citizens insurance program under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to cover catastrophic health expenditures.

Salceda, chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means on Wednesday, manifested the proposal in his sponsorship speech of House Bill 52, or the PhilHealth Reform Act.

“Our proposed framework is to allow PhilHealth to create a catastrophic health insurance program for senior citizens on top of the government’s sponsorship of coverage for Senior Citizens,” Salceda said in his speech at the House Committee on Health which deliberated on the bill.

Salceda pointed out that the program is necessary because “seniors tend to pay a larger share of the hospital bill out-of-pocket.”

Data from PhilHealth claims, as cited by Salceda, that only about a third of seniors’ hospital bills from Level 3 private hospitals are provided some level of insurance support and subsidy, making them the least supported sector as a share of total hospital costs.

“Kung sino pa ang walang pera, siya pa ang malaki ang kailangang bayaran,” Salceda said of senior citizens. (Whoever doesn’t have money, he still has to pay a lot)

Catastrophic health expenditures are those that take a significant portion of the patient’s household income. Such expenditures include those for cancer treatments and conditions that require major hospitalization.

Salceda added that “the median reported individual or conjugal income is P3,000 per month and 46% are living below the poverty line in 2018 (according to the Longitudinal Study of Ageing and Health in the Philippines (LSAHP)).”

“This results in a welfare gap of around P9.1 trillion to give senior citizens a decent old age. Around 18%, or P1.67 trillion, is the healthcare financing gap for quality care for senior citizens. I’m not saying we should cover the whole thing. But certainly there are ways to finance the gap.”

Salceda also pointed out that while “The share of households experiencing catastrophic health expenditures in the Philippines is declining (appears to coincide with higher fiscal resources for health due to Sin Tax Law)… catastrophic health expenditure tends to hit senior households the most.”

Salceda proposed that the “carved out” insurance scheme be funded partly by new sin taxes and by growth in revenues of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and the Philippine Charity and Sweepstakes Office. Salceda also says that “the PhilHealth’s excess funds can also support this new program.”

“We have a duty to provide dignified old age and quality care for senior citizens. They didn’t get the best cards in life. So, they didn’t get to save enough for pension and elderly health care. But there are financial solutions to this fundamental problem of inequity.”


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