Cayetano asks PhilHealth: Explain whooping reserve fund

The Senate has asked officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), the administrator of the government’s National Health Insurance Program, to explain why the agency is keeping a whooping P69.5-billion reserve fund instead of mobilizing said funds to subsidize the health care expenses of millions of poor Filipinos.

During Monday’s hearing on various health care financing bills, Senator Pia Cayetano, chairperson of the Committee on Health and Demography, sternly reminded PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Dr. Rey Aquino of the agency’s mandate to make medical insurance more affordable and accessible to its members while retaining a minimal two-year buffer for their projected expenditures.

“It is not your mandate to make your reserve fund bigger and bigger. Your mandate is to ensure that the poorest of the poor in our country get quality and affordable health services,” Cayetano stressed.

According to Aquino, the agency’s reserve fund came from members’ contributions, investments and from sponsored programs, which include counterpart funds from government agencies and local government units.

He explained that PhilHealth is keeping a large buffer fund since it expects to shell out P40 billion this year for medical payments and P63 billion in 2012, in addition to plans to expand current benefits under the health insurance program.

Cayetano asked Aquino to provide a more detailed presentation in the next hearing on how the agency intends to utilize its current reserve fund, marked at P69.5 billion as of November last year, to further improve the PhilHealth system.

The committee has already conducted two hearings on health insurance bills seeking to expand the coverage of the state insurance program to include children, barangay health workers, drivers and the informal sector. Authors of these measures include Senators Loren Legarda, Ralph Recto, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., Antonio Trillanes IV, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., Manuel Villar, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Manuel Lapid and Edgardo Angara.