Recto eyes mandatory PhilHealth coverage for all 6.1M senior citizens

MANILA, (PNA)–Senator Ralph Recto has filed a bill that will provide mandatory PhilHealth coverage for the entire 6.1 million senior citizens by removing the limitation under the law that grants the statutory benefit only to those who are considered as indigents.

“I firmly believe that in the case of providing mandatory PhilHealth benefits to our senior citizens, the law should not distinguish. If limitations imposed by law tend to create unjust consequences, then they should be amended,” Recto said.

In filing Senate Bill No. 712, Recto seeks to amend Republic Act No. 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 which provides an array of benefits, privileges and assistance for senior citizens, one of which is the mandatory PhilHealth coverage for “indigent” senior citizens.

Recto said RA 9994 defines “indigent senior citizen” as “any elderly who is frail, sickly, or with disability, and without pension or regular source of income, compensation or financial assistance from his/her relatives to support his/her basic needs, as determined by the DSWD in consultation with the National Coordinating and Monitoring Board (NCMB).”

The Senate leader said his bill proposes to remove the limitation on the mandatory Philhealth coverage for senior citizens. Under this bill, all senior citizens, whether indigent or not, shall be enrolled under Philhealth.

“The mandatory Philhealth coverage for indigent senior citizens enables them to avail of health services, free from out-of-pocket expenses. However, while this provision is meritorious, it is limited only to indigent senior citizens, most of whom are already under the indigent or sponsored membership of Philhealth,” Recto stated.

“Senior citizens who are not considered as indigents but who cannot afford to enroll themselves under the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP), are then deprived of the Philhealth benefits,” he added.

Another salient provision of SB 712 is to source the funds needed to ensure the PhilHealth coverage of the country’s 6.1 million senior citizens from the National Health Insurance Fund.

Under present law, local government units (LGUs) where the indigent senior citizen resides shall allocate the necessary funds to ensure the PhilHealth enrollment of their respective qualified constituents.

“I see no problem in PhilHealth footing the bill of providing coverage to all our senior citizens, especially if its vault is filled with more than P110 billion in retained earnings. I have always maintained that this fund should be used to improve the delivery of health services to the people,” Recto stressed.

“And providing coverage to all our 6.1 million senior citizens is but one way of putting to good use PhilHealth’s stash of retained earnings,” he said.

During last week’s hearing on the proposed 2014 budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Recto asked DSWD chairperson Dinky Soliman about her thoughts on the proposed bill. Soliman is fully supportive of the measure.

Earlier, the Batangas lawmaker questioned the wisdom behind the decision of the PhilHealth board to hike members’ contributions by 100 percent – from P1,200 to P2,400 – without providing any justifications.

He said this was tantamount to an increase in the payroll tax and that PhilHealth should disclose what additional services accompany the increase in annual rates.