MENTAL HEALTH IN FOCUS: PhilHealth to implement new benefit packages this year

PhilHeath-6 Acting Regional Vice President Janet A. Monteverde (second from left) said the state-run health insurer will implement new benefit packages this year. (John Noel E. Herrera photo)

By John Noel E. Herrera

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will introduce new benefit packages this year to provide Filipinos with “complete and comprehensive healthcare services.”

In a press conference on Monday, Feb 27, 2023, PhilHeath-6 Acting Regional Vice President Janet A. Monteverde said one of these packages is intended for Filipinos with mental health illness as the new outpatient program would help make treatment and management accessible to the public.

Monteverde cited a 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) study which revealed that about 6 million Filipinos are living with depression or anxiety and many advocacy groups and lawmakers have already been asking for more access to mental health services.

An earlier report from PhilHealth said that the agency is conducting field tests for the design of three sets of mental health outpatient packages planned for rollout, and is looking to tap trained and in-training practitioners to render the benefit packages, as there is a lack of mental health care professionals in the country.

Data from PhilHealth indicated that it only covered up to P7,800 for patients hospitalized for certain mental health conditions such as dementia, bipolar, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders.

Monteverde noted that these new benefits – outpatient care for severe acute malnutrition for kids below five years old; rationalized COVID-19 packages; and expanded Konsulta packages – would be funded by regular contributions from PhilHealth members.

PhilHealth would also implement enhanced treatment coverage for patients needing hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, kidney transplant, orthopedic implants and open heart surgery for children, as well as healthcare services for breast, cervical, and prostate cancer patients.

These benefits would be funded by contributions from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) as they were mandated to remit a portion of their revenues to the agency, according to Monteverde.

She added that PhilHealth continues to strengthen its KonSulTA (Konsultang Sulit at tama) program to “make essential services, such as consultation, health screening and assessment, laboratory, drugs, and medicines available to all.”

Monteverde stressed that the public need to be aware of their healthcare needs and they should avail of the KonSulTA program to undergo medical assessment and prevent further complications.

“Kita daan daw ugali ta ya nga kung wala ka malang sang may gina batyag, ngaa mapa doctor ko ya man, but the correct gid ya, is we will change our health-seeking behaviour. Mas gusto ta ya nga naga doctor-doctor sa lawas ta, so dapat gid ya we should see a doctor. Before kita tanan maglala, we should be screened,” she said.

PhilHealth-6 noted that there are already 125 accredited KonSulTA providers in the region as of January 2023, which offer individual-based and outpatient health services, such as initial and follow-up primary care consultations, health screenings and assessment, and access to selected diagnostic services and medicines.