NEW IN PHILHEALTH

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The year opened in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) with the resignation of Dr. Eduardo P. Banzon as its president and chief executive officer (CEO) on January 14, due to “personal reasons” after rendering only 14 months of service. Secretary Ona, being chairman of the PhilHealth Board of Directors, acted as officer-in-charge. Banzon’s resignation, however, did not affect the successful conduct of “PhilHealth-DOH Run 2013: Nationwide Run for Mother and Child Protection” with the theme “Synergy for Universal Health Care!” on February 17 to the highlight the agency’s 18th anniversary. It was done in more than 18 major sites in the country.

On June 18, President Aquino named Alexander A. Padilla as a member of the board of directors of the PhilHealth and approved his nomination as the new president and CEO. Malacanang said that his appointment was stalled due to the appointments ban before the May 13 mid-term elections. Padilla was previously appointed by Aquino as chief government negotiator tasked to handle the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, its political arm the National Democratic Front, and its armed wing the New People’s Army. He has also served as DOH undersecretary from May 2003 to November 2010.

A few days later, on June 21, Aquino signed Republic Act 10606 or the National Health Insurance Act of 2013, the law providing mandatory health care for all Filipinos, including indigent, elderly, abandoned children and persons with disabilities with the national government subsidizing their premium contributions. The law amended Republic Act 7875 or the National Health Insurance Act of 1995, Section 6 to say that the program "shall be compulsory in all provinces, cities, and municipalities nationwide, notwithstanding the existence of LGU-based health insurance programs" adding that the PhilHealth, DOH, LGUs and other agencies and NGOs "shall ensure that members in such localities shall have access to quality and cost-effective health care services." The new law is a proof of the government’s commitment to Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (universal health care).

On September 14, Secretary Ona said PhilHealth will achieve universal health coverage before the end of Aquino’s term in 2016. He said that by next year, the number of indigent Filipino families fully covered by PhilHealth through sponsorship would increase to 14.7 million from 5.2 million families. This includes the 5.2 million families from Quintile 1 that are already covered by PhilHealth, and the rest will come from Quintile 2. Quintile 1 are the poorest Filipino families identified in the National Housing Targeting System (NHTS) by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, while Quintile 2 is the second poorest families. Ona also said that by 2015, the DOH is targeting families under Quintiles 3 and 4, which also include the poor but informal sectors of society.

On October 31, President Aquino led the joint launching of the new PhilHealth card and the newest benefit package known as Z-MORPH, which aims to benefit persons with lost or deficient limbs. It covers the initial fitting of external lower limb prosthesis at a package rate of P15,000 per limb or P30,000 for both limbs for the entire pre- and post-prosthetic management of either the foot,  symes and ankle or below-the-knee levels of amputation. Eligible members or their qualified dependents may initially avail of this benefit at the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center, at the Philippine Orthopedic Center and at the Philippine General Hospital.

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