The Department of Health (DOH0 made a shocking announcement yesterday, May 16, 2023, that they are forming a technical working group together with PhilHealth to study the proposed transfer of the administrative supervision of our country’s national health insurance program to the Office of the President. Under existing laws, PhilHealth is attached to the DOH for policy coordination and guidance, especially towards the realization of universal healthcare.
The very idea that the DOH is even considering relinquishing its responsibility and accountability over PHILHEALTH tells it all. It could be seen as an act of abandonment by trying to transfer this responsibility to another agency to avoid accountability or simply giving up its mandate due to political pressure.
While predicting the exact effects of transferring PhilHealth to the Office of the President without knowing the specifics of the proposed plan may be quite premature but based on past experiences and current challenges, we can’t but be concerned.
Increased political influence may loom over PhilHealth. With its transfer to the Office of the President, the agency’s decision-making processes could be subject to political pressure and favoring, which could compromise the quality of its agency’s services and may undermine its mandate to provide health care for all Filipinos.
“If politicians take over PhilHealth, the people can only see increased rationing of health care among the poor for political gain rather than fulfilling the health needs of our people reeling from an unfinished epidemic and increasing poverty and economic crisis. The people’s health agenda of health for all will be nearly impossible once Malacanang takes over the health sector. Aside from keeping the health portfolio under political pressure by not appointing a health secretary, this move, if accomplished, will remove all technical competency in the public health sector.”
PhilHealth may become less transparent and susceptible to corruption under the control of the President. In the past, there were allegations of corruption and irregularities within the agency, and moving it to the Office of the President may lead to less transparency and accountability. Considering that many politicians are dipping their noses into matters that they don’t have the necessary expertise and experience to manage especially a complex healthcare system like PhilHealth, this could result in ineffective policies, mismanagement of funds, and poor service delivery.
In any case, it is essential to ensure that any decision made regarding the management of PhilHealth should be done with the best interests of the public in mind and with proper oversight to prevent corruption and mismanagement.