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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Visayan Bloc Wants PhilHealth Coverage for Barangay Workers

Calling it one of its main advocacies, the 34-member Visayan Bloc in the House of Representatives is pushing for the enrollment of all barangay officials, employees and volunteers in PhilHealth.
The leader of the bloc, Iloilo City lone district Rep. Jerry Treñas, told a news forum yesterday that they plan to meet with Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Sec. Florencio “Butch” Abad to discuss allocation of funds for the PhilHealth coverage in the proposed 2015 national budget.
“This is a work in progress. This [PhilHealth coverage] for barangay workers is not only for the Visayas, but for the whole country,” Treñas said.
Last week, the Visayan Bloc recommended amendments in the proposed 2015 budget as it cited the need for an “equitable share” among people from various regions and sectors of society.
One of the highlights of the bloc’s budget advocacy is to ensure that barangay officials and volunteers are covered by the national health insurance program.
“The bloc recognizes the need to urgently ensure the health benefits of the barangay workers who are in the frontline of government services in the grassroots,” said Treñas. 

The Visayan Bloc had earlier noted that the budget for PhilHealth coverage of indigents for 2015 is at P37 billion, or a P2-billion increase from the previous year. This allocation, it reckoned, should go to the health insurance of the identified indigent beneficiaries under the National Household Targeting System (NHTS).
But Negros Occidental third district Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, said that only 5.2 million out of the 10.9 million indigents surveyed in the NHTS are enrolled in PhilHealth.
“Even if we cover all of the 10.9 million households surveyed in the NHTS for the PhilHealth-sponspored program, there would still be enough balance from the P37 billion for the PhilHealth coverage of barangay officials and volunteers,” said Benitez.
The Visayan Bloc is now lobbying for a special provision in the General Appropriations Bill which would provide for the inclusion of barangay workers in the PhilHealth-sponsored program.
“Barangay workers deliver necessary services and are regarded as the first responders of the government in times of crisis and disputes in their localities. If we cannot take care of our own, how can we expect efficient delivery of social services down to the far-flung barangays?” asked the Negros Occidental lawmaker.
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