Tuesday, February 03, 2015



Sen. Chiz Escudero
According to Senator Chiz Escudero, senior citizens are among the sectors to benefit from the mandatory PhilHealth coverage under a new special provision in the 2015 general appropriations bill.

The indigents, elected and appointed barangay officials, tanods and barangay health workers (BHW) are also covered.

“Volunteer tanods put their lives on the line but receive a token pay, while BHWs get a measly honorarium. The least we can do is to give them health insurance so when they are hurt in the line of duty, the treatment will be shouldered by PhilHealth,” Escudero said.

The senator explained that funding for the “full premium subsidy” of the covered sectors will come from a P37.06-billion allocation of the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) under the government’s proposed spending package for 2015.

Escudero has attached a special provision to this fund “so that those who need PhilHealth insurance but can’t afford it will be covered.”

“The continuing role of the government is to remove barriers and provide wider access to healthcare assistance which is a universal basic service,” Escudero pointed out.

In addition to indigent seniors and barangay officials, the Escudero amendment mandates the automatic PhilHeath coverage of indigent families identified by the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR).

In order to ensure that this sector will continue to get health insurance coverage in 2015, the special provision also orders the retention in the 2015 list of the “poor and low income families who are currently enrolled in the NHIP.”

The P37.06 billion earmarked for 2015 NHIP will be used to pay for the PhilHealth membership premiums of P10.2 million “sponsored families.”

According to Escudero, he specified “all seniors” in the special provision so that the newly-signed Republic Act No. 10645 will be fully implemented. “We don’t want it to end up as an unfunded mandate.”

Escudero refers to the Act Providing for the Mandatory PhilHealth Coverage for All Senior Citizens, Amending for the Purpose RA 7431, as Amended by RA 9994, otherwise known as the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, which President Aquino signed. 

For 2015, the Department of Health has a proposed budget of P89.9 billion, up from P87.1 billion this year.
But the total health sector budget, including budgetary support for four Quezon City-based specialty hospitals, the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, and other non-DoH agencies, is P94.6 billion, according to a Department of Budget and Management briefer. 
The Senate would have not approved the 2015 budget request of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) had it known that it would implement fare increases in the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT ), Senator Chiz Escudero said.

“They [DOTC] asked for budget allocation from Congress as what they needed. We gave it to them, but they did not even inform us that there will be an increase,” Escudero said. “Had we known that there will be a fare hike, we could have given them a smaller amount from the 2015 budget.”

The new LRT-MRT fare hike increased to P11 from P10 the base fare and P1 more per additional kilometer effective January 4.

Escudero, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance, said the new rates would burden the public without any improvement in the service of the rail transit system.

“The reason why this fare increase is such a burden is because the service is not improving. We already allocated money for the MRT rehabilitation and improvement for 2015. There is enough funding. We don’t need the money from the fare hike in order to improve MRT3,” Escudero pointed out.

“We are not in favor of this LRT-MRT fare hike. They never mentioned this, not during the senate hearings with the department, not even during the budget deliberations.” Escudero said.

According to Escudero, before a fare hike can be implemented, there must be a public hearing. The DoTC, however, said there was a public hearing that happened in 2011.

“If that is their basis for the hike this 2015, I think that is not fair. They will implement the fare hike four years after the public hearing and they will tell us that that is the public hearing as required by law? I certainly disagree with that logic,” said Escudero.

During the Senate budget deliberations for the 2015 budget, Escudero slashed P54 billion from the Unprogrammed Fund for the supposed buyout of the MRT 3 and allocated the funding for other more essential services such as the much needed infrastructure to ease the traffic congestion and improve disaster preparedness programs. /MP

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