A SENATOR has opposed the proposed transfer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to the Office of the President (OP), saying the Health department must not relinquish its direct supervision over a key component of the universal healthcare program.
Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, in a statement on Monday, questioned the recent creation of a joint technical working group (TWG) to evaluate PhilHealth’s transfer under the OP.
The May 12 department personnel order signed by Health Officer-in-charge Maria Rosario S. Vergeire assigns Department of Health (DoH) and PhilHealth officers who will make up the TWG, with the consent of the OP.
“Why would the DoH even consider relinquishing its responsibility and accountability as the principal national health authority in charge of PhilHealth?” Ms. Hontiveros said. “Why the sudden interest of the Office of the President in exercising authority over PhilHealth?”
The lawmaker noted that existing laws provide that “PhilHealth is and should remain attached to DoH for policy coordination and guidance towards the realization of universal healthcare.”
Meanwhile, Rafaela David, president of Akbayan Party, which sent out a copy of the DoH personnel order to the media, said the planned transfer may also affect PhilHealth’s ability to provide health insurance coverage especially to the poor.
“Placing PhilHealth under the Office of the President could make it more vulnerable to vested interests and political pressure, which could undermine its ability to operate independently and make impartial decisions,” Ms. David said in a statement.
She added that the transfer may also raise transparency concerns.
“With less oversight and scrutiny, there is a risk that the agency could become less accountable to the public and ineffective in addressing corruption and other issues that have plagued it in the past.”
Ms. David said President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s administration should instead prioritize appointing a Health secretary and address the pressing problem of lack of healthcare workers. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz