Expert says need to heal ailing PH healthcare sector

Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go speaks to reporters on health financing. Photo courtesy of Maclang & Associates Inc.
 PHYSICIAN Kenneth Hartigan-Go said the poor should no longer shoulder the healthcare spending of wealthy Filipinos.

This can only be done, Dr. Hartigan-Go said, through a new payment system to replace the current one that is based on the “Fee for Service” (FFS) concept.

The FFS, according to the consultant of the Zuellig Family Foundation Inc., is a practice where patients are charged according to each service discharged during the treatment.

The new system, which Hartigan-Go said is now practiced in a few hospitals in the country but has been institutionalized in Singapore, Thailand and the United Kingdom, is the case payment.

“It’s like the paluwagan system, wherein there’s a global package of funds from which the payment for healthcare is taken and the patient is charged a small amount.”

Hartigan-Go said, however, that understanding and higher consciousness over this health financing are crucial since “strengthening health financing would strengthen the health system.”

“And everything will fall into place.”

Hartigan-Go said coming up with a new system of spending for health care, including human resources and equipment, aims to reduce out-of-pocket expenses to only 15 percent.

“An average number of Filipinos have to spend transportation, accommodation, and food, among others; with costs close to 60 percent. They borrow from their relatives and neighbors.”

Direct or OOP payments for medical bills usually include professional fees of doctors, prescribed medicine and laboratory tests, and, in many cases, the travel expenses to the urban areas for advanced health care intervention.

The large OOP expenses, Hartigan-Go said, is inimical against the poor as “only the rich are able to afford healthcare because they can afford OOP.”

However, he said there’s a need to provide incentives to doctors and physicians so that they neither won’t order unnecessary laboratory tests nor prescribe drugs that add up to the expenses of the patient, especially if they’re poor.

“The idea is not to take from poor more money.”

Hartigan-Go said the savings from this payment method can go to the upgrade of the medical facility and other technological development.

The quality of health services provided to the poor, nonetheless, shouldn’t be less because they pay less, he added.

This can be done if the people are aware that they have this right to quality health service, Hartigan-Go said adding the government should also be aggressive in explaining the case payment method to the private sector.

Hence, he noted they will go back to Cebu where they held a summit on healthcare in January, to the northern Philippines, and to Laguna for healthcare literacy training sessions.

Hartigan-Go said about 40 tertiary hospitals would pilot test the case payment method.

[Story filed with BusinessMirror newspaper on April 12, 2011.]

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