Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has indicated accepting appointment as chairperson of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) if a proposed measure to appoint him would materialize.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Monday the health agency “strongly supports” the proposal “to appoint the Secretary of the Department of Finance as ex-officio chairman of the PhilHealth board.”
Duque, during the hearing of the Senate committee on health and demography, also attended by Dominguez, said: “Considering the urgent need to ensure that the board implements efficient fund management for PhilHealth, we welcome the proposal to strengthen fiscal management measures that shall be made possible through the chairmanship of the Secretary of Finance.”
PhilHealth, which figured in recent weeks in in allegations of graft and corruption, was created in 1995 to implement universal health coverage in the Philippines.
It is a tax-exempt, government-owned and controlled corporation of the Philippines, and is attached to the DOH.
Dominguez said: “I do not seek this position but I take the policies, the law very seriously. I will do my best in implementing Universal Health Care law.”
“It will be very difficult to allocate my time but I will ask to be excused from some other less pressing assignments if I am given this position,” he added.
Dominguez said if he would be appointed to the position by President Rodrigo Duterte, his first order of business would be to “make sure that there is no leakage” in the PhilHealth funds.
He added: “We are prepared to do that and we are prepared to implement a new information IP system which is very important to managing this institution.”
In a related development, Sen. Christopher Go pushed for PhilHealth reforms and more responsive healthcare system as he called on the agency to settle bills with Red Cross in accordance with the law.
During the Senate hearing on the proposal to designate the Finance secretary as Philhealth ex-officio chairman, Go acknowledged the efforts of Duque.
But he expressed his support for Senate Bill No. 1829 and other reforms to address the issues hounding the state insurance agency, the mandate of which mainly deals with fiscal management related to health care.
Once SB 1829, introduced by Senate President Vicente Sotto III is passed into law, Go clarified that the health chief would still remain as a member of the Philhealth Board.
“Secretary Duque is doing everything he can do to respond to this pandemic. He is one of the pillars of this war as the Secretary of Health and [Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases] Chairperson. He has big responsibilities now that we are facing a health crisis,” said Go, chair of the Committee on Health and Demography.
Go said it was probably time to have the Department of Finance take the helm, explaining that PhilHealth is an insurance corporation and it would be very appropriate if the Secretary of Finance would lead the Board.
“The DOF Secretary, being an expert in financial management, would he a big help to watch over every single fund of Philhealth,” noted Go.
Go also challenged Dominguez to protect the interests of the public and ensure the agency’s funds were used appropriately.
He revealed he personally discussed the proposed measure with Dominguez who vowed to go after the corrupt officials within and outside the agency if he is made chair.
Senate Bill No. 1829 was approved on the committee level during the hearing, subject to possible amendments and further review.
Meanwhile, PhilHealth recently gave updates on hastening the process to register all Filipinos in the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP).
Under the Universal Health Care Law, all Filipino citizens are automatically eligible to avail themselves of the the government’s health benefits packages.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed the UHC Law last February 20, 2019 to ensure that every Filipino, with the inclusion of overseas Filipino workers, has access to a comprehensive set of quality and cost-effective, promotive, preventive, curative, palliative, and rehabilitative health care, without causing financial hardship, and prioritizing those who cannot afford such services.
With the Universal Health Care Law, about 110 million Filipinos, based on the Philippine Statistics Authority consensus, are now eligible to receive universal health care.
They will also be granted access to all health care services in accredited public facilities, as well as basic accommodations in accredited private health care institutions.