Gov’t subsidy to PhilHealth hits record-high in 2022
MANILA, Philippines—Amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) received its biggest-ever annual subsidy amounting to P80.9 billion in 2021.
It was despite the latest Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) data showing that the total subsidy given by the national government to government-owned and/or -controlled corporations (GOCCs) last year fell by nearly a fifth to P184.8 billion from the record-high P229 billion in 2020.
The government subsidized wages of workers in badly hit small businesses and gave cash aid to vulnerable sectors at the height of the most stringent COVID-19 lockdown imposed two years ago.
Since 2014, PhilHealth has been receiving the largest amount of yearly subsidy in the GOCC sector. The P5.02-trillion 2022 national budget had set aside P80 billion for PhilHealth to cover premium subsidies for indirect contributors with the implementation of the universal health care (UHC) program covering all Filipinos in full swing.
Last year, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the national government’s subsidy would allow PhilHealth to disburse members’ medical coverage despite lower contributions due to tougher times wrought by the pandemic yet higher disbursements to those who got sick or died of COVID-19.
The latest data on its website showed that as of end-June 2021, PhilHealth covered 94.79 million Filipinos, of which 52.53 million were members (31.18 million direct contributors, as well as 21.35 million indirect contributors among indigents and senior citizens), plus 42.27 million of their dependents.
Also last year, think tank Fitch Solutions warned that “due to diversion of health care funds [to COVID-19 response], PhilHealth might not meet the medical coverage goal,” but Dominguez had assured that the state-run health insurer’s reserve fund, which stood at P164.1 billion in mid-2021, could cover UHC requirements despite it also struggling to pay off debts.
In 2019 or before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) No. 11223 or the UHC Act to automatically enroll all Filipinos in the national health insurance program being implemented by PhilHealth.
Even pre-pandemic, PhilHealth had also been mired in a string of controversies due to some top officials’ alleged fund misuse.
Aside from PhilHealth, the other GOCCs that got the biggest subsidies last year included the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), with P38.3 billion; and the National Housing Authority (NHA), P25.7 billion.
Up to 90 percent of subsidies that state-run corporations receive were being spent on priority programs and projects, while the rest covered operational expenses, according to the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG).
Besides subsidies, the national government also extends equity and net lending support to GOCCs.
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