PhilHealth eyes Ebola benefit package

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Monday, August 11, 2014

AS PART of the government's preparation, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is now looking at coming out with a benefit package for its members for the Ebola virus disease (EVD).

In an interview, PhilHealth President and CEO Alexander Padilla said that they are already exploring the possibility of coming out with a package that will unburden would-be EVD patients of the treatment and hospitalization expenses.

"Once we have Ebola cases already in neighboring countries or here, for sure we will come out with the package. But for now, we are still studying it," said Padilla.

He said that while this would mark the first time that they will have an Ebola benefit package, they already have an idea where to pattern it.

"The most similar package we could have for Ebola will be our SARS package. So, we will probably be adopting the same kind of package," said Padilla.

Under the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) package, Padilla recalled that they offered P50,000 for ordinary patient-members, and P100,000 for healthcare workers.

The Department of Health (DOH) has repeatedly said that the country remains to be Ebola-free despite the declaration of the World Health Organization (WHO) that EVD is now a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

For the moment, DOH spokesman Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy said their preparation is now concentrating on monitoring the entry of all individuals, especially those coming from Ebola-hit countries.

He explained that knowing all vital information on arriving passengers is crucial in the event that an the country gets its index case for EVD.

“One of the things we are doing now is the proper coordination with the people coming in. It is important to us to know who they are and to know where to look for them in case any of them becomes our index patient,” explained Lee Suy.

He said they are already coordinating closely with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) on how to monitor arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

On the other hand, Lee Suy said they have also tapped the help of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) in tracking down foreign nationals.

“The sooner we get the report, the sooner we can detect, the better for us since we can immediately contain the virus,” said Lee Suy.

He also reiterated that the DOH is not yet recommending travel restrictions from Ebola-hit countries like Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

The health official said this is because the WHO has not given such a recommendation to member-states.

In a related development, Lee Suy related that the DOH is set to meet with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) regarding the possibility of creating an alert level system concerning public health issues.

He said this would be similar to the alert level system being followed by the POEA in terms of declaring OFW deployment ban.

“We want to discuss if it is possible to have alert level for public health. They already have one when there are hostilities, but none for public health. We want to know if we can also have one,” said Lee Suy.

To note, POEA imposes a deployment ban for OFW new hires during Crisis Alert Level 2 and a total deployment ban for both new hires and returning workers under Crisis Alert Level 3 and 4. (HDT/Sunnex)

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