MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez asked a House of Representatives panel to review the charter of state-run health insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and possibly expand benefits extended to members.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Romualdez said the House health committee was tasked with the review as the House leadership intends to explore more ways to increase the benefits received by Filipino patients.

Romualdez said PhilHealth is supposed to function as a health maintenance organization (HMO) or a private health insurance company that focuses its resources on providing health care to its members and not on investment.

“With substantial annual appropriations from Congress and regular contributions from private employees, there is no excuse for PhilHealth to skimp on coverage,” Romualdez said.

“The effectiveness of the universal health care system depends on our ability to provide our citizens with the medical attention and preventative care they deserve,” he added.

A committee hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, February 14.

Romualdez said the goal is to increase benefits and cover at least 50 percent of costs in private hospital wards, while also offering free screenings for certain cases – such as early detection of deadly diseases like cancer, preventative measures including diagnostic tests such as x-rays for lung cancer, mammography for breast cancer and provision of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

“The review seeks to address and eliminate any barriers to quality healthcare while ensuring that PhilHealth’s operations align with the best interests of the people it serves,” Romualdez said.

“This initiative […] underscores the government’s dedication to strengthening the healthcare system, making it more responsive to the needs of its citizens and ensuring that all Filipinos have access to the care they need, when they need it,” he added.

PhilHealth came under fire earlier this year after it announced that its members' premium contribution would increase from four percent to five percent in 2024.

Although the increase is in line with the Universal Health Care (UHC) law, people asked why there is a need for the increase when PhilHealth's income has been increasing annually without increases.

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Because of this, the Secretary of Health, Teodoro Herbosa, recommended to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that the increase be postponed.