Sen. Risa Hontiveros. File photo / Screen grab from Senate PRIB
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros has filed a bill that would institutionalize free 144 dialysis sessions for Filipino senior citizens.
Currently, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) covers 90 dialysis sessions, but Hontiveros said her bill would cover the complete 144 sessions needed for a complete year of treatment.
PhilHealth has already raised the number of subsidized dialysis sessions to 144 but only until December 31, 2020, as it also covers individuals who are not senior citizens.
Hontiveros filed Senate Bill. 2053, or the proposed Free Dialysis for Senior Citizens Act of 2021, which seeks to fully reimburse all the dialysis sessions needed by senior citizens conducted in accredited hospitals or free-standing dialysis centers through PhilHealth.
“Dialysis has become the lifeline for so many of our senior citizens. It is already difficult to grow old, pero doble ang hirap ng mga lola’t lola na kailangan ding magpa-dialysis. We should help ease the burden,” the senator said in a statement Wednesday.
(But our grandfather and grandmother who need to undergo dialysis are experiencing double the hardship.)
Under the bill, PhilHealth shall reimburse senior citizens the cost of needed hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and other kinds of dialysis approved by the Department of Health provided that such treatment is availed of at accredited hospitals and freestanding dialysis centers of the state insurer.
In filing the bill, Hontiveros stressed that the pandemic exacerbated the financial and physical vulnerabilities of senior citizens.
“Ang mga lolo’t lola natin ang isa sa pinaka-bulnerableng grupo ngayong pandemya. P500 lang ang natatanggap nila bawat buwan sa social pension nila, at yung mga kaya namang magtrabaho, hindi makalabas dahil sa health restrictions,” Hontiveros said.
(Our senior citizens are one of the most vulnerable groups at this time of pandemic. They only receive a social pension of P500 every month, while those who can still work cannot go out because of health restrictions.)
“With a case rate of P2,500 per session of dialysis, we cannot expect that our senior citizens needing this life saving treatment will be capable to pay the remaining 54 sessions amounting to P135,000,” she added.
Hontiveros said it is urgent to pass the bill as soon as possible to make life easier for those with kidney disease, which she noted remains the seventh leading cause of death among Filipinos according to the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI).
“Kidney disease is one of the killer sicknesses in the country. I hope this will be a foot in the door to finally expanding the coverage and permanently increasing the number of dialysis sessions we can give our people to give them the chance to still live their lives,” she said.
A similar bill was earlier approved at the committee level in the House of Representatives last Feb. 4.