Press Release
April 28, 2011

PhilHealth's 'four-child' rule discriminates against childbearing women

Sen. Ralph G. Recto is batting for the dismantling of the "barrier" limiting the number of normal childbirths that would be covered under the National Health Program or the PhilHealth Law. Recto said limiting the number of PhilHealth-covered, hospital-aided deliveries to only four childbirths "discriminates childbearing women from their right to be provided the necessary healthcare benefits after the fourth child."

"Moreover, it essentially penalizes women with more than four children," Recto said in filing Senate Bill (SB) 2140 which seeks to amend the PhilHealth Law. A committee report on the measure by the Senate committee on health and demography is being finalized.

Under Section 2 of Republic Act (RA) 9241 which amended the PhilHealth Law, women members could only apply for coverage up to their fourth childbirth while the fifth and subsequent deliveries are excluded.

Recto stressed the "four-child" policy practically prevents women from availing childbirth services for their fifth and succeeding newborns in hospitals, thereby endangering their lives and of their unborn.

Citing a 2006 Family Planning Survey of the National Statistics Office (NSO), the senator said six out of 10 birth deliveries occur at home, mostly by traditional midwives or "hilot" primarily due to the high cost of giving birth inside hospitals.

The NSO survey also found out that for every 100,000 live births in the country, 162 women die during pregnancy or shortly after delivery.

Such ratio is still far from the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of 55 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, he noted.

"This is primarily due to the high cost of obstetrics delivery services in hospitals," Recto stressed. The senator clarified that his bill was not meant to foment a population explosion by encouraging women to bear more children but only to reinforce the mandate of PhilHealth, which was to provide universal healthcare insurance regardless of how many times a childbearing woman enters the delivery room.

"The bill aims to achieve a universal coverage for childbearing mothers and newborns, regardless of number," Recto said.

He added: "Certainly, lifting the limitations in the number of childbirths will not be an incentive for women to have more children. Rather, it provides an opportunity for women to avail of needed benefits without regard to the number of children they already have."

Recto nevertheless said lifting the barrier on childbearing women would also improve the country's quest to meet the United Nations (UN) MDG program, which was to reduce maternal deaths through improved healthcare.

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