In the pink of health
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2018 - 12:00am

Despite rumors that it is in precarious financial health, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.(PhilHealth), under the leadership of Dr. Roy Ferrer, the agency’s new president and chief executive officer, has recently been doing quite well. 

For instance, for the first four months of this year, it reported a hefty net cash flow of P11.6 billion. For the January-April 2018 period, PhilHealth received a cash inflow of P41.4 billion from which were deducted its expenditures that totaled P29.8 billion, resulting in a net cash flow of P11.6 billion as of April 30 – certainly an impressive figure for an agency that’s supposed to be losing.  

In a press statement posted on its website, PhilHealth pointed out that the P41.4-billion cash inflow it received during the period came from premium contributions totaling P39.2 billion and from an investment income of P2.2 billion. Both figures, the agency noted, represented sizable increases from their year-ago levels. The premium contributions for January-April 2018 were 104 percent higher than the P19.2 billion collected in the corresponding period in 2017, while this year’s investment income bettered last year’s P2 billion by 10 percent.

Quoting Dr. Ferrer, the PhilHealth press statement said the higher cash flow was made possible by “aggressive employer accounts monitoring and compliance in the government and private sectors, the heightened consciousness among members to ensure regular payment of their contributions, and strategic investing.” 

 On the expenses side of its balance sheet, PhilHealth also did well as it was able to slash its administrative expenditures by 22 percent from P2.2 billion to P1.8 billion through what Dr. Ferrer described as “prudent management.”

As expected, however, the bulk of the agency’s expenses went to benefit payouts or the payments made to hospitals for services rendered to PhilHealth members as well as their dependents. For the first four months of this year, PhilHealth’s benefit payouts reached P28 billion. “This,” the agency said, “is proof that we do not renege on our commitment to our partner hospitals when it comes to paying their claims already received by PhilHealth, including those that have already been ‘incurred but not yet reported’ (IBNR) to us.” 

For those not familiar with PhilHealth terms, the IBNR is an estimate of claims that have not yet been filed by the hospitals for reimbursement. Through this mechanism, PhilHealth is able to anticipate prospective obligations based on actuarial approximation. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s prudent management at its best!

At the end of 2017, PhilHealth’s population coverage was a staggering 97 million or 93 percent of the country’s total population of 104 million. A contributory factor to this sharp growth in coverage was the implementation in July last year of a cutting-edge program that aims to make universal health coverage a reality. Called the Point-of-Service (POS) program, it allows even non-PhilHealth members to avail themselves of the agency’s health insurance coverage.

Indigent patients who are financially incapable to pay their hospital bills can be covered by the program by just satisfying a set of criteria. On the other hand, financially capable members who are struggling to meet mounting hospital bills can reinstate their eligibility through a simple mechanism.

 Complementing the POS is PhilHealth’s No Balance Billing (NBB) policy that exempts poor as well as elderly patients in government hospitals from paying anything in excess of their PhilHealth coverage. More popularly known as the “Walang Dagdag Bayad” policy, the NBB mandates that no direct medical expense shall be charged the patient for the duration of his confinement which, in effect, makes hospital treatment and care entirely free for the beneficiaries. 

Implementing and, more importantly, sustaining these programs would need a financially strong state health insurance agency. But as Dr. Ferrer pointed out, PhilHealth’s huge cash position, as evidenced by its P11.6 billion net cash flow at the end of April, is solid proof that the agency is in a very stable financial position.

And because of this, PhilHealth, by his reckoning, is fully capable to meet its obligations to all its members, partner hospitals and other stakeholders.

* * *

FROM ANOTHER FRONT: When writer-poet-visual artist and former advertising creative director Amie Caluya-Geronimo toyed with the idea of putting up an online portal for home-based pastry and cake bakers like her last year, the bouncy  beat of Jerry Lee Lewis’ hit “Great Balls of Fire” inspired her, so  that from its iconic lyrics, Goodies Gracious (Great Bowls of Fun) was born.  

“Goodies Gracious (GG)” is an online sharing group for baking and cooking enthusiasts who have day jobs or create their cakes and cookies at home either as a hobby or added source of livelihood.  

From an initial membership of just two, the other being her husband Nanie Geronimo, chef Amie said the group has gained a cult following among mostly women home-based bakers, and with some men who also dabble in piping buttercream icing and mixing dry and wet ingredients in bowls. It now boasts of a nationwide network of some 22,000 members, with some coming from the US, the Middle East, and Asia. 

“When I shared in the GG site my brownies and coconut macaroon recipes, both went viral. Countless lives of women were changed by these two recipes.  They used my recipes to bake these goodies which they sold to friends and relatives. They were empowered because they were able to earn good money for themselves and in the process, help their families too,” Caluya-Geronimo said.

The group celebrated its first anniversary party  last week at the Aberdeen Court, Quezon Avenue, Quezon City, starting with Peotraco and Zeelandia as anniversary partners.

A highlight of the event was a baking demonstration top billed by three of the country’s best pastry chefs – Mario Torrechilla of Zeelandia, Clyden San Pedro of Peotraco Sugar Lyte, and Nathan Andrew, sugar master. They shared their tested baking creations exclusively to GG members.

“I was not expecting that my idea of an online platform for bakers and cake artists like myself will evolve to this wonderful band of friends who not only share a  passion for baking, but have used the venue to explore and experience personal growth, while earning on the side, extra income and complements from their delighted families and patrons,” Caluya-Geronimo said.


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