If You Get Sick, Expect Health Care to Cost More Until Pandemic is Over

Getting sick during a pandemic is more expensive than ever. According to Dr. Paulyn Rosell-Ubial, a former secretary of the Department of Health, Filipinos should expect higher healthcare fees as hospitals and health professionals are spending more on protective equipment.

“Kaya medyo nagmamahal ang health care cost kasi pati ‘yung gamit ng PPE (personal protective equipment) which ranges from P1,500 to mga P2,000 per set ay china-charge ng mga doktor o health worker sa pasyente,” said Dr. Rosell-Ubial at a virtual forum organized by Citizens’ Urgent Response to End COVID-19 (CURE COVID).

(Health care cost is getting expensive because doctors and health workers charge the personal protective equipment, which ranges from P1,500 to P2,000 per set, to patients.)

The former health secretary also cited differences in cost before the pandemic and at present. For example, ambulance transfers pre-COVID were at P5,000 but it has increased to P12,000 because hospitals factor in the cost of disinfection after transporting patients and the PPEs for the people manning the vehicle.

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She also sees the rise of cost in healthcare provisions because health centers and other facilities will be investing in materials like disinfection solutions and equipment like UV light and filters. This will be part of our new normal, according to Dr. Ubial.

Dental fees will also increase because of the need for new equipment. “Dati nang mahal ang dentists, lalong mamahal pa dahil sa mga gadgets na ito,” Dr. Ubial said.

(Dental services are already expensive but it will cost more because of these gadgets.)

The former health secretary also foresees that the health system will be investing in additional manpower — hiring more midwives, doctors, and nurses — if the new normal will require them to visit patients in their homes to provide health services.

However, she is unsure whether the government can support house-to-house treatments, adding that the cost of PPEs was not included in the 2020 government budget.

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Dr. Ubial says to expect the new normal to persist for a few more years, explaining that it took two years for the world to stabilize when the Spanish flu hit in 1918. "Tinitignan natin na ma-exhaust 'yung susceptible sa population para hindi na maging ganun kabilis ang paglaganap ng virus," she said.

(We are looking to exhaust all those who are susceptible to the virus and curb its spread.)

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