MANILA – The Senate approved on third and final reading on Monday a bill imposing higher penalties on hospitals or clinics that refuse to administer treatment to emergency patients. While increasing five times the penalty for hospitals refusing basic emergency case, the bill allows them to be reimbursed by the national health insurance body, with the balance that is not shouldered by Philhealth to be made tax-deductible.
Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros, sponsor and principal author of Senate Bill No. 1353, said the measure primarily sought to protect “the rights and interests of patients from abuse, and to improve the country’s health profession.”
“We want to a have a healthy nation where the poor are not turned away from hospitals, and where no family will have to beg just so they can receive proper medical treatment,” she said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Richard Gordon are also authors of the bill.
According to Hontiveros, the bill will primarily increase the penalties for violations committed under the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law or Republic Act No. 8344 first passed in 1997.
The current law prohibits and penalizes hospitals and medical clinics when they “request, solicit, demand or accept any deposit or any other form of advance payment as a prerequisite for confinement or medical treatment of a patient,” or when they “refuse to administer medical treatment and support as dictated by good practice of medicine to prevent death or permanent disability.”
Under the bill, fines for hospitals which refuse to administer basic emergency care will increase from P100,000 to P500,000 but not more than P1,000,000.
“Upon three repeated violations committed pursuant to an established policy of the hospital or clinic or upon the instruction of its management, the health facility’s license to operate shall be revoked by the Department of Health,” the bill said.
To investigate claims of patients and to facilitate the filing of cases in court, the measure proposes to establish the Health Facilities Oversight Board, which will be under the Department of Health (DOH).
Hontiveros said the proposed law “would take into consideration the concerns of hospitals and medical clinics by ensuring that the costs they incurred in providing emergency medical care be either reimbursed or become tax-deductible.”
“The cost of the basic care and transportation services incurred by the hospital or medical clinic that has rendered emergency medical services to the poor and indigent shall be reimbursed by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC),” the bill said.
“Other expenses incurred which were not reimbursed by the PHIC shall be “tax deductible,” it added.
Hontiveros said the bill would discourage the refusal to admit patients needing emergency medical treatment, and “show our people that health is, in fact, more important than wealth.”
She lamented the fact that even 20 years after the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law was approved there are still cases where patients, many of whom are indigent, were “denied emergency treatment by hospital because they failed to give deposit payments.”
“While they are few, they are enough to tarnish the good name and reputation of the noble medical profession and erode the people’s faith in our medical institutions,” Hontiveros said.
“Profit should not have supremacy over the health needs of the people,” she concluded.