Angara urges PhilHealth to include psychiatric consultation in insurance coverage  

Amid public clamor to take mental health issues seriously following the deaths of prominent personalities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, Senator Sonny Angara on Sunday urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to include fees for psychiatric consultation in their coverage.

“Early intervention through consultation with psychiatrists and proper medication should be readily accessible for ordinary Filipinos,” Angara said in a statement.

He added that the cost of consultation must not hinder people from seeking medical help.

According to the senator, PhilHealth covers only hospitalization expenses for cases of acute attacks due to mental and behavioral disorders at a package rate of P7,800.

“Mental and behavioral disorders can lead to impairment in judgement, self-inflicted pain, or worse, suicide. This can be prevented,” he said.

Angara noted that the Department of Health (DOH) has been operating a national suicide prevention hotline called HOPELINE since 2016, but he said the service is limited to answering questions and referring patients to mental health professionals.

“Another problem is we do not have enough psychiatric facilities and psychiatrists in the country,” he said, noting that the Philippines has only 490 psychiatrists or one psychiatrist per 250,000 Filipinos. This is far from the ideal ratio of one psychiatrist per 50,000 people.

Angara, one of the authors of Senate Bill 1354 or the Mental Health Bill, called on President Rodrigo Duterte to sign the proposed measure into law. It was transmitted to Malacañang on May 21.

“While the government works to make mental health care more affordable and accessible, another challenge is getting Filipinos to overcome stigma. To address this, the bill seeks to integrate mental health programs and policies in schools and workplaces,” he explained.

The mental health bill aims to provide basic mental health services at the barangay level by mandating the DOH to provide psychiatric services in all regional, provincial, and tertiary hospitals.

“Kailangang tiyakin na ang bawat indibidwal na nakararanas ng depresyon ay napagtutuunan ng kaukulang pansin, binibigyan ng agarang atensyong medikal, at hindi iiwan hanggang sa kanyang tuluyang paggaling (It is important for individuals experiencing depression to get medical attention and support until their full recovery),” Angara said. /ee

READ: Senate OKs mental health bill

READ: House unanimously approves mental health bill

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