PhilHealth chief opposes privatization of state health insurer
A public display sign of Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
The STAR/File photo

PhilHealth chief opposes privatization of state health insurer

Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) - October 1, 2020 - 12:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) chief Dante Gierran opposed Thursday the privatization of the state health insurer which is hounded by multi-billion peso corruption allegations.

Speaking before the House panels on public accounts and on good government and public accountability, Gierran said privatizing PhilHealth would leave its members with nowhere to go for their health concerns.

“Kung i-privatize po ang PhilHealth po, anong mangyayari po sa ating mga miyembro?” he told lawmakers via Zoom. “Mayroon tayong tinatawag na outright membership. Kahit hindi ka pa miyembro, ‘pag pumunta ka sa ospital, miyembro ka kaagad. And then outright eligibility, saan natin kukunin ito kapag i-privatize natin ito?”

(If we privatize PhilHealth, what would happen to our members? … We have what we call outright membership. Even if you’re not a member, if you go to the hospital, you’ll immediately become a member. We also have outright eligibility. Where would we get this if we privatize it?)

He added that privatizing PhilHealth sends a “wrong signal” to the public that people in government cannot be trusted.

“Are we telling the people of the Philippines, of the world, that only people in the private sector can work well? That government workers like us can’t do that? Wow. That’s not right, sir,” Gierran said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Gierran, however, said that he submits to the wisdom of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte said Monday that he wants PhilHealth abolished or revamped, adding that reforms cannot be implemented if the current officials stay in their post.

However, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Wednesday that the task force tasked to investigate the alleged anomalies in the state health insurer, which he leads, only recommended PhilHealth’s reorganization and not its abolition.

This was backed by Justice Undersecretary Adrian Ferdinand Sugay during the House hearing, saying they did not go as far as recommending to do away with PhilHealth.

“We would not have gone as far as saying that we no longer need PhilHealth,” Sugay said in a mix of English and Filipino. “I would like to think the report was advocating more for reforms in PhilHealth.”

Labor coalition Nagkaisa has warned against privatizing PhilHealth, saying that it would only reverse the gains from the government’s universal health care program.

However, Rep. Stella Quimbo (Marikina), who has filed a bill allowing the president to privatize parts of PhilHealth or its entirety during an emergency, said privatizing the state health insurer does not mean that the poor would lose coverage.

“When we say privatize PhilHealth, we’re talking about privatizing the corporation,” Quimbo said. “It doesn’t mean that government is precluded from subsidizing the premiums of our indigent households.”

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