Lawmaker assures of P5-B new fund for Philhealth

September 21, 2009 10:49 am 

MANILA, Sept. 21 — Members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) can now sleep better at night as the state-run national health insurer was assured of another P5 billion in fresh funding in the proposed P1.541-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2010.

Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas, however, stressed that the new allocation "is not a subsidy. This is meant to pay the national government's arrears to Philhealth."

He explained that as employer of 1.4 million civil servants, the government is required by law to provide them Philhealth coverage, and pay for 50 percent of their premium contributions.

"The P5 billion is intended to pay the government's outstanding employer counterpart contributions to Philhealth," he pointed out.

Gullas said the P5-billion allotment for next year is on top of the P5 billion that Congress set aside this year for the government's Philhealth dues, and the P1.45 billion earmarked in 2008 for the same purpose.

"With the additional funding, government workers as well as other Philhealth members are assured of adequate health insurance protection," he said.

The Cebu solon urged the government to set a positive example for private entities that are obliged to protect their workers and dutifully pay and remit their mandatory contributions to Philhealth.

Nerissa Santiago, Philhealth vice president for actuary, had told a Senate hearing that the government owed the national health insurer P19.2 billion, representing unpaid contributions for the mandatory coverage of civil servants.

She warned that unless the dues are paid right away, Philhealth could become insolvent in seven years.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, however, disputed Santiago's claim, saying the national government owed Philhealth only P9 billion.

"Whatever the absolute amount owed by the government, what is important is that Philhealth is already assured of getting another P5 billion," said Gullas.

"This should keep the government's outstanding balance at a level where it won't put at risk Philhealth's financial stability, and at a level where the National Treasury won't find it even more difficult to pay Philhealth later on," he said.

Philhealth collects P100 to P750 in monthly premiums from every public and private sector worker, with 50 percent of the amount paid for by the employer. In return, workers get health insurance coverage through accredited service providers.

Gullas renewed his call for Philhealth to promptly curb its financial losses due fraudulent and padded claims.

The solon said Philhealth has been losing up to P4 billion annually to fictitious or overstated claims, mostly involving syndicates in cahoots with unscrupulous health service providers. (PNA)

DCT/LGI

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