MANILA, Philippines – To recognize the need to bridge the social barriers between the mainstream society and people with disabilities (PWDs), the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has made prostheses now available for those who have lost a limb.
This began in 2012 when PhilHealth board was presented a national data which showed that an estimated 30 percent of PWDs in the Philippines could return to work if only provided with an assistive device like a prosthesis for a missing limb.
One non-government organization had a registry of some 2,000 people in need of a prosthesis but could not afford one; and this is one of the reasons why the said agency was convinced and selected the prosthesis provision as the first rehabilitation service to be covered by PhilHealth, and is called the “Z package”.
Among the first people to benefit the “Z package” was Alan Santos.
New lease on life
In April 2013, Alan Santos, a 25-year-old construction worker, hit a live electrical wire while working on a building site and sustained injuries that required amputation of his leg below the knee.
He reported that his contract did not provide health insurance or hospital benefits but with the support from the local government, he was able to subscribe to Philhealth services and become the first recipient of the “Z package” prosthesis.
In September, he was admitted to the Philippine General Hospital in Manila to be measured for a prosthesis and receive training on how to walk on his new leg. His employer has even offered to re-hire him after his discharge.
For Santos, PhilHealth’s “Z package” has offered him a new lease on life.
“I don’t want my child to grow up seeing me without a leg, not being able to run and play with her, and eventually becoming dependent on her when I should be the one taking care of her,” he said.
PhilHealth benefit package expansions
With the guidance from the World Health Organization and local disability and rehabilitation sector partners, the Philippines included rehabilitation services for people with disabilities in its insurance package.
Moreover, PhilHealth has steadily expanded its membership base and the package of services it covers.
Dr. Dominga Gadgad, healthcare delivery management head of PhilHealth, said that the Case Type Z Benefit Package, launched last July 2012, only previously covered prostate and breast cancers as well as leukemia for children. But the benefit package has expanded and now covers treatment for congenital heart defects, cervical cancer and lower limb prosthesis.
However, hospitals contracted for these types of treatment are currently based in Metro Manila. But Dr. Gadgad is optimistic and believes that some private hospitals in other regions will qualify for the packages with their improved services and facilities.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) continues to strengthen their partnership with PhilHealth as they pledged for additional funds to be infused for universal health coverage.
Jonah Marie T. Rosal
ABCom, Leyte Normal University