Privatizing PhilHealth will improve efficiency – Duque

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said privatizing the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will improve its efficiency in delivering services amid calls to reorganize the state insurer.

When asked during the Department of Health’s virtual budget hearing in the Senate on Friday about the possibility of privatizing PhilHealth, Mr. Duque said “Yes, there are many components of the social health insurance system that can be outsourced.”

He added that these outsourced services include claims processing, counter-fraud, and risk management. Mr. Duque said in a mix of Filipino and English, “These are three [items] that we can privatize. They can help in the orderly management of services in PhilHealth which will avoid any anomalies in filing claims if they are privatized.”

Mr. Duque’s statements came after a number of government officials called for the abolishment or privatization of the state insurer which is facing longtime allegations of irregularities within the organization. President Rodrigo R. Duterte is among those calling for its reorganization if corruption within PhilHealth is not addressed by the end of the year.

However, PhilHealth CEO Dante A. Gierran said in past reports that abolishing Philhealth will have adverse effects on the government’s implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) program, which is in its first year of implementation this year. The UHC makes all Filipinos automatic members of PhilHealth. Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque also said in past reports that it is the government’s obligation to insure Filipinos’ healthcare

The health department’s proposed 2021 budget of P203 billion was approved in the same budget hearing, and it will be submitted to the plenary. In the health department’s spending plan, Philhealth will have a budget of P71 billion, making up 35% of the total proposed health budget for 2021.

The health department’s proposed expenditure plan for next year is 27% higher than its 2020 budget due to measures that will address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which includes the further strengthening of the UHC program.

While P38 billion is being allocated for UHC programs next year under the department’s spending plan, the Department of Health said that there is a shortfall of P140 billion in the proposed budget to fully implement this, but the department will utilize the budget the best it can.

“Our projected UHC budget has not been realized and given the pressures of the increasing health challenges… our budget should really P350 billion… we won’t be able to implement the UHC law. So we need to calibrate our targets and our plans to get the best value,” Mr. Duque said in a mix of English and Filipino, adding that the Department of Health will also implement measures that will avoid the mismanagement of the funds. — Gilliam. M. Cortez

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