THE Department of Health (DoH) in Regions I, II and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) proposed to Congress a P21.5-billion budget for 2021.

A virtual hearing of the House committee on the North Luzon growth quadrangle on Monday heard a DoH-Region I proposal for a P4.3-billion budget for 2021, P798 million higher than the proposed budget in 2020.

“The difference accounts for the health facilities that we need to undertake including the manpower the region needs for 2021,” DoH-Region I Director Valeriano Jesus V. Lopez said.

The P4.3 billion will be used for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) amounting to P1.04 billion and capital outlays amounting to P3.26 billion. No provision was allotted for personal services.

Meanwhile, DoH-Region II proposed a P10.6-billion budget for 2021 for personal services worth P3.23 billion, MOOE of P3.15 billion, and and capital outlays of P4.28 billion.

DoH-CAR proposed P6.65 billion in 2021, P201 million higher than the proposed budget for 2020. Personal services will get P2.48 billion, MOOE P670 million, capital outlays P3.49 billion and retirement and life insurance premiums P9 million.

Since Region I has the smallest proposed budget for 2021 in Northern Luzon, Pangasinan Representative Tyrone D. Agabas asked Mr. Lopez to reassess the proposal, saying that there’s a “growing need” for health facilities and equipment in the region.

“In my district alone, for 2020, zero equipment for BHS (barangay health stations) and there are a lot of BHS na nakatiwangwang (that are left unused) because we don’t have the equipment,” he said.

Regions I, II and CAR make up 9.9% of the total population, according to Philippine Statistics Authority data from 2015. As of June 14, total COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) cases in these regions amounted to 233 out of the 25,930 national cases.

La Union Rep. Sandra Y. Eriguel asked the DoH to increase the benefits package under the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.(Philhealth) for COVID-19 patients.

“Prior to April 15, Philhealth covered everything. Now (there is a limit of) P700,000. Pwede po kaya sana i-increase po (Can’t this be increased)?” she said.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Francia M. Laxamana said the DoH will bring up the suggestion to Philhealth.

“We will do our best to propose that to Philhealth kasi meron naman po sila mga bagong mga case rates at benefit package na ginagawa po ngayon (it has prepared new case rates and benefit packages). We will try to bring that up with them,” she said.

According to Philhealth’s website, patients confirmed with COVID-19 that develops into severe illnesses will be compensated as follows: mild pneumonia P43,997; moderate pneumonia P143,267; severe pneumonia P333,519; and critical pneumonia P786,384. — Genshen L. Espedido