Hospitals Forced Into Debt as PhilHealth Fails to Reimburse COVID Bills

A 'severe financial distress,’ medical group says.
Photo/s: shutterstock

Hospitals in the Philippines are under "severe financial distress" and forced to borrow money from banks due to the failure of state-run PhilHealth to reimburse them for COVID-19 treatments, the head of their organization said Wednesday.

Some unpaid claims date back to March 2020,  at the start of the pandemic, said Philippine Hospital Association president Dr. Jaime Almora. While he could not give a total, he said PhilHealth owed one hospital P1.2 billion.

Almora said his group met on April 5 with PhilHealth president Dante Gierran, whom he said was "sympathetic and accommodating" of their concerns. He added that Gierran promised to pay the unsettled COVID-19 claims.

"[Hospitals] have to dig into their savings and they have to borrow from the bank. Some hospitals have called me already and informed me that they have borrowed from the bank for their operating budget," he told a hearing of the Senate economic affairs panel.

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PhilHealth prioritized non-COVID claims at a time when hospitals treat more coronavirus patients, he said. This aggravated the problem because hospitals no longer earn as much from non-COVID cases and yet they still are not paid for treating COVID patients, he said.

"If the hospitals are not paid, the doctors component, the professional component is not also paid. So here are doctors working for the COVID patients but they are not being paid," he said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan finds it "unacceptable" for PhilHealth to keep COVID-19 claims unpaid.

"You are the frontliners and yet this is how you are treated by government in terms of support and funding. This is totally unacceptable," Pangilinan said.

Senator Imee Marcos, who chairs the Senate economic affairs committee, said she would invite PhilHealth in their next hearing to explain the matter.

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