Senators call on PhilHealth to cover COVID-19 patients in tents


At least six senators have jointly called on the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to cover those confined in hospital tents amid the rise in new COVID-19 cases which overwhelmed several healthcare facilities in Metro Manila.

In a joint statement, Senators Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Sherwin Gatchalian, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, and Juan Miguel Zubiri said that, in a pandemic environment, the PhilHealth has a social and moral obligation to serve the needs of its members. 

“It plays a major role in implementing the UHC (Universal Health Care) law and its services are crucially important,” the senators said.

“Considering the continued rise in COVID-related cases, PhilHealth cannot claim, as an excuse for its indifference, being drowned by bureaucracy or being choked financially. As a government corporation, it is its obligation to break the barriers and provide solutions in the midst of a health care coverage crisis,” they said.

“We, therefore, urge PhilHealth President Dante Gierran to come up with a standard policy and guidelines to cover patients staying in hospital tents while waiting for admission,” they added.

The state health insurer has earlier clarified that the persons admitted in accredited tents of hospitals are covered by the in-patient COVID-19 packages if the services given them are part of the in-patient care

“PhilHealth guarantees that COVID-19 patients are entitled to health insurance coverage for RT-PCR tests, isolation in accredited community isolation units and hospitalization for mild to critical cases of COVID-19,” Gierran said in a statement.

Gierran reiterated the clarification of Nerissa Santiago, chief operating officer, in a recent congressional hearing that “if the services given to patients in tents were part of in-patient care, then these should be covered by the current in-patient COVID-19 packages of the program, as opposed to stays in non-accredited Community Isolation Unit tents which are not compensable under existing rules.”

In a congressional hearing early this week, Bayan Muna party-list Representatve Ferdinand Gaite bared some patients staying in the tents were being charged P1,000 per hour



PhilHealth said it would investigate the matter.

“Be it COVID-19 or not, patients should be afforded with all the financial help as guaranteed by the Universal Health Care Law,” Gierran said.

He added PhilHealth is reviewing its policies to respond to the demands of the pandemic.

“Enhanced guidelines will be issued soonest to ensure that adequate financial protection is duly provided to the patients without compromising quality of care,” the PhilHealth chief said.

The senators, meanwhile, appealed to PhilHealth not to ignore the cries of families who have no recourse but to shell out their last money because the state insurer will not cover those queuing in emergency rooms or staying in temporary tents.

“The tragedy is that the coronavirus did not only disturb the entire healthcare system, it actually laid bare—in the face of the pandemic—the big gaps in the system, the cracks in the health-service delivery, and the inability of PhilHealth to adapt and respond to extraordinary situations,” the senator said.

They said that with millions of lives at stake, “we cannot just be silent on reports that patients had to pay P1,000 per hour in hospital tents simply because PhilHealth would not cover their temporary stay.”

Under the Universal Health Care Act of 2019 (Republic Act 11223), the lawmakers said the Senate made sure that every Filipino should have access to health services, and be protected against financial risk. 

“Therefore, all Filipinos are entitled to PhilHealth benefits and service coverages—including emergency and comprehensive outpatient services,” the senators said.

“In these trying times, PhilHealth should be the voice of compassion and care for every patient. It is but tragic that it has been unable to respond and reach out to the already overburden families of patients,” they added. —KG, GMA News