Senior citizen healthcare

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star
Senior citizen healthcare
What senior citizens need is assurance of being able to get adequate and affordable healthcare services.
Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

Whoever is representing the senior citizens party list in Congress has done nothing about our real needs. Loose change discounts from groceries and restaurants are not enough recognition of the services senior citizens have done for this country.

What senior citizens need is assurance of being able to get adequate and affordable healthcare services. The elderly tend to have medical conditions that are more expensive to treat. We do not have universal healthcare in this country contrary to what they want us to believe. Almost everything is paid out of pocket by the patient.

It is terrible that you have to be a multi-millionaire or borrow heavily to afford a surgical procedure or get cancer treatment. That’s because most seniors do not have health insurance coverage. We lost that when our companies retired us.

My recent need for surgery is a good example. Thank God I have friends who helped (you know who you are, thank you very much) and that I am kuripot so I have some savings. Just the cost of the stents (custom made in Singapore based on measurements from my CT scan) used in my procedure will blow up the budget of a middle-class family for the year. Then there are hospital expenses and the fees of the doctors.

I believe my doctors deserved every peso in their fees. And the hospital couldn’t have provided excellent care if they cut corners to bring costs down. The cost of getting adequate health care is simply unaffordable even for the middle class without health insurance. And if you are poor needing a heart bypass or cancer treatment, you just wait to die.

A study by the PIDS, a government think tank, observed that out-of-pocket health costs remain a significant expense among households and are “expected to increase for the entire population” in the coming years.

“Effective financial protection in a health system should reduce out-of-pocket patient costs that are not covered by insurance as much as possible,” PIDS said. “Elderly members have less income yet incur the biggest health expenses and get the lowest support value in public and private hospitals.”

A PIDS release cited another study by Ateneo de Manila University Development Studies Program Research Associate Vincen Gregory Yu that summed up the health financing experiences of ordinary Filipinos in 4 “Ps”– pagtitiis, pangungutang, pagmamakaawa and PhilHealth.

“Pagtitiis, which means enduring symptoms of health conditions, involves refusing to seek treatment and resorting to self-medication. Filipinos would also turn to alternative or traditional medicine.

“For Filipinos, pangungutang or borrowing money often becomes their first resort in addressing their medical needs. Unfortunately, Yu said, this ‘often leads to more catastrophes.’”

“The third “P” is pagmamakaawa which refers to the process of soliciting help from state and private institutions and individuals. This often happens as a last resort when no friend or family can lend them money, or one has exhausted donations from them.”

Then there is the fourth “P” for PhilHealth which isn’t likely to be a big help with catastrophic hospital bills for the more complicated surgeries and for cancer treatment.

It is the middle class that is most affected by money problems involving hospitalizations. Facilities in government hospitals are often lacking as it is to cover the poorest Filipinos. The middle-class with growing families have to go to private hospitals and take on the added financial load for the medical bills of ailing senior citizen parents because they can’t very well do nothing.

While US employers are not obliged to provide retirees with health insurance, there are those who help give continuing coverage working with government assisted plans. Although retiree health coverage is a major financial investment for employers, it is useful in recruiting and retaining employees, particularly those in mid- and late-career.

Post retirement medical insurance in the US can sometimes be partly company provided that transitions to Medicare, a federally funded insurance program for eligible participants 65 or over. Medicare has two parts, Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). Medicare does not cover 100 percent of all costs. The system can be complicated but, in the end, seniors get some form of relief that reduces out-of-pocket expenses. Private insurance companies are also involved in the system.

This is something our legislators, financial experts in and out of government and our insurance companies should work on. It is appalling that no one is even talking about the provision of adequate health insurance for seniors. In the meantime, only those with savings in the millions or those with well-off friends can afford state of the art medical care that is available in this country.

Given the government’s inability to provide adequate and timely health services in state hospitals, the government should allow deduction of hospital bills from taxes seniors must pay, a form of patient-government partnership. Government continues to collect taxes from whatever little income seniors still earn. Additionally, seniors have also paid taxes when they were young and healthy. The government is obligated to provide help at this time of their lives. Worrying about your serious health condition and the costs of doing something about it too, may be enough to make you want to die. Or is that the idea in this unjust society?

There is urgency in my suggestion. PIDS says the Philippines is moving toward an ageing society. “This will become evident when the elderly, aged 65 or older, will already comprise at least seven percent of the total population by 2032.”

The congressman representing seniors should wake up from his nap at a pansitan. He should work with Joey Salceda, a financial whiz and chair of the ways and means committee on how to enable seniors to get the kind of medical services they need. An added incentive for Cong. Joey to help is the fact that he just turned senior citizen too.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on X or Twitter @boochanco

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