Despite having PhilHealth, Filipinos pay almost 50% of health costs

PhilHealth officers attend to customers
A Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) study in 2019 has found that Filipinos bear almost 50% of their medical expenses even though they avail the services of the agency. (Photo: PhilHealth/Facebook)

Despite availing the services of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), Filipinos still spend 34 to 44.7 percent of their medical costs out of their pockets, according to the agency’s officer-in-charge on Wednesday (October 5).

In a briefing with the Senate Committee on Government Corporation and Public Enterprises, PhilHealth officer-in-charge Eli Dino Santos shared the findings of a 2019 study conducted by the agency, as well as a Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report.

“Based on our records, in a study conducted in 2019, the out-of-pocket percentage is 34 percent, meaning for every P1 spending, the out-of-pocket is 34 centavos,” he said. “There’s also a report from the PSA-Philippine National Health Accounts, our out-of-pocket is still at 44.7 percent based on our current health expenditure.”

According to the statistics agency, the country spent P792.6 billion in 2019 for health, making it 4.6 percent of the country’s economic output.

A concerned Sen. Joel Villanueva mentioned that he hopes that PhilHealth were taking steps “to address these high out-of-pocket expenses and to lower [spending] within acceptable limits.”

As of October 2020, 2.4 million Filipinos earn only minimum wage while 8 million are paid below it. Presently, the minimum wage in the National Capital Region (NCR) is P533 to P570 a day.

Santos mentioned that there are about 10 to 12 million Filipinos unregistered with the state health insurance agency.

“Although we have this automatic or immediate eligibility, what Philhealth requires is registration,” he said. “We request our fellow Filipinos to register with PhilHealth, because at present our registration is still at 90 percent, meaning there are about 10 to 12 million Filipinos who are not registered.”

“It cannot be that Filipinos have no place to go — whether it’s a health center, a private or public clinic. What gives them courage will be their PhilHealth membership,” Senator Alan Peter Cayetano added.

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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