By Chelsey Keith P. Ignacio, Special Features Writer

Health insurance in the Philippines — whether through the government-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO), or private health insurance providers — exist to financially secure and support Filipino workers to get access to quality healthcare.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has not only affected the physical health of employees but also their mental well-being. Hence, in this time under the global pandemic, the value of healthcare access and health insurance becomes more apparent.

Many companies are able to provide health insurance to their employees as part of their healthcare benefits. Health insurance could demand additional costs for companies and employees, as premiums are partly covered by the employer but are also often deducted from the salary of an employee. This makes it seem difficult to be offered by some small businesses.

Franz Joie Araque, executive vice-president and chief of Cocolife Healthcare, has also pointed out that finances for healthcare programs could be a challenge for small businesses.

FRANZ JOIE ARAQUE, EVP and chief of Cocolife Healthcare

“Healthcare expenditures were cited as one of the most expensive benefits that employers are providing to their employees. Budgetary constraints brought about by the pandemic posed challenges for most companies more so with SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in allocating funds for their healthcare program,” Mr. Araque told BusinessWorld.

The COVID-19 crisis has evidently impacted MSMEs. Due to temporary business closures, there were MSMEs that recorded no sales and revenues in March 2020, the first month of lockdown, according to a rapid survey of MSMEs in the country conducted from the end of March to mid-April in 2020 by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Meanwhile, some of those that continued operating during the lockdown saw a drop in sales and revenue. And even though the country’s economy has moved to the recovery stage six months after that March lockdown, ADB noted that MSMEs remained to face a sharp drop in demand and revenue.

MSMEs are considered as the backbone of the Philippine economy, as they accounted for 99.51% of the total 957,620 business enterprises and 62.66% of the total employment in the country, according to data presented by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Therefore, protecting the health of those in the MSME sector is significant to maintain and boost the economy.

Fortunately, there are health insurance products offered in the Philippines that are specially made or customizable enough to cater to small businesses. So what can health insurance really bring to MSMEs?

The cost of several healthcare services can be quite expensive. Hence, the foremost purpose of health insurance is to help a person avoid going broke from dealing with healthcare matters. While getting health insurance might not give a person a large amount of money to spend on one’s health all the time, it could at least help them pay for different medical services they would need.

But before going through the business advantage of offering health insurance, what are some of the actual benefits or coverage that one can get from PhilHealth, HMOs, and private health insurance?

PhilHealth provides inpatient benefits, as long as the healthcare institution where one is admitted is a partner of PhilHealth. It also provides outpatient benefits, among which are for day surgery, radiotherapy, and hemodialysis. PhilHealth also provides Z benefits and Sustainable Goals Development-related benefits listed on its website.

HMOs, meanwhile, also cover inpatient or outpatient care services, basic surgeries, and other ancillary services like laboratory testing and medication. An HMO offers access to healthcare services to its subscribers through its network of healthcare providers.

While an individual is often the one who voluntarily buys private health insurance, there are also some companies that offer it to their employees as well. Cocolife’s Group Life, Accident and Health Insurance Plan, for instance, has a customizable and flexible coverage that helps provide access to services such as inpatient and outpatient care, preventive care, emergency services, and dental coverage, among others.

Some healthcare programs specifically made for SMEs are available even for those with a team as small as three or five employees.

Much of the business benefits that SMEs can get by providing health insurance deal with their employees.

Christopher Tan, VP – head of Sales and Marketing Department, Cocolife Healthcare

For Christopher Tan, vice-president and head of the Sales and Marketing Department of Cocolife Healthcare, among the advantages for SMEs through offering health insurance is better recruitment and retention rate.

“Increasingly, employees are perceiving healthcare insurance as a major consideration in either joining a company or staying with the company. Healthcare plans are considered as a security blanket, especially at this time of the pandemic,” Mr. Tan explained further.

He added that health insurance could benefit SMEs in terms of providing peace of mind for employees, promoting employee satisfaction and loyalty, and protecting them from potential financial losses due to unfortunate incidents requiring medical care and hospitalization.

Furthermore, Mr. Tan believes that SMEs offering health insurance could see improvement in employee morale and productivity.

“It should be a priority to ensure that employees are physically and mentally healthy so that they can be productive. A happy and healthy employee is a productive and fulfilled employee,” he added.

Mr. Araque and Mr. Tan assured companies that health insurance providers would help them by getting health insurance that could fit their business and needs.

“Companies have high expectations when getting quality health insurance. They normally prefer to work with an insurer that can provide the most comprehensive benefits and is capable of addressing all their employees’ health concerns at the most efficient cost. Most companies are looking for value for money,” shared Mr. Tan.

As the cliché goes, “You cannot put a price tag on your health.” “With this in mind, our intent is to assist SMEs by designing tailor-fitted programs based on industry and nature of work, capabilities and focusing on matters that can develop long-term customer loyalty,” he added.

Mr. Araque, meanwhile, told SMEs that in choosing which is the best health insurance for them, they should look for financial stability, a wide network of providers, as well as flexibility, and accessibility.

“Cocolife will assist and collaborate with companies on how we can design and provide a healthcare benefit program that is sustainable and effective, meeting the company’s requirements and capabilities,” he also assured.

Cocolife Healthcare is one of the preferred healthcare providers in the country. It has an access to over a thousand clinics and 700 hospitals, and more than 50,000 doctors and institutions. Cocolife is also a leading provider of group insurance.