Press Release
July 24, 2019

As PhilHealth data paints 'graver' dengue epidemic, Recto urges use of Calamity Fund

The actual number of dengue cases in the country during the first half of the year may be higher than the one reported by the Department of Health (DOH) if the number of reimbursement claims filed before the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) is the basis.

"There is almost a 70,000 difference between the two," Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said, "with PhilHealth receiving 174,000 claims and the DOH reporting 106,630 cases from January to June of this year."

"If we use the PhilHealth data, then the epidemic is graver than what is widely believed," Recto said.

Again citing PhilHealth data, Recto said the number of dengue cases hit the quarter-of-a-million mark in 2018, with filed claims reaching 251,258. The DOH, however, reported a lower figure of 216,190 cases.

"Ikumpara mo ito sa datos ngayon. Kalahating taon pa lang, 174,000 na ang claims na natanggap ng PhilHealth," Recto said. "Hopefully the second half numbers will be lower, because if it follows the same trajectory, then we're looking at more than 300,000 cases by the end of the year."

As to the disparity in data, Recto believes that authorities have an explanation for the gap. "I was told that some dengue patients were admitted twice. But whether it is the figure from DOH or from PhilHealth, the number is alarming."

Recto said dengue, which can cause hemorrhagic fever on a patient, can have a "hemorrhagic effect" on the finances of both DOH and PhilHealth when the number of those affected has hit epidemic proportions.

In 2018, PhilHealth paid P2.44 billion to settle more than 252,000 dengue hospitalization claims. But for the first half of year, it had already processed P1.7 billion worth of claims, or 71 percent of what it paid out for the entire 2018.

The state insurer has three "benefit" rates for dengue cases, with a maximum cover of P10,000 for "Dengue I"; P16,000 for "Dengue II"; and P7,000 for "Non-Severe Dengue".

Recto said the DOH "might need some budgetary infusion" if the cost for "preventive and curative" protocols to contain the epidemic and treat patients will be beyond DOH's financial capacity.

"'Yung naka-itemized na budget ng DOH for this year for "prevention and control of other infectious diseases" is only P738 milllion, and that is for a host of diseases, not just dengue. Kahit idagdag dito ang P4 billion for 'public health management', kulang pa rin," Recto explained.

He urged DOH to tap its P500 million Quick Response Fund in the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF)so it can "intensify its response to this public health emergency."

He added that the DOH should also impose a moratorium on nonessential and postponable meetings, trainings in hotels and redirect the funding for these to the dengue control effort.

According to the Commission on Audit, the DOH spent about P2.2 billion for travel and training in 2017.

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