Press Release
April 1, 2016

To fight sickness, money laundering, make PhilHealth card 'national ID'

A day after the country's corporate watchdog batted for a national identification system to ease financial transaction and combat money laundering, a proposal has been made in the Senate to elevate the PhilHealth card as the "pambansang ID."

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said a Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) identification card is now honored as a valid government-issued identity document, "so the only thing left is to update its features and expand its distribution."

PhilHealth cards, he added, have also been accepted, pursuant to a Central Bank circular, in all banking transactions as a document to verify and establish a person's identity.

"The beauty of adopting the PhilHealth card as the Filipino ID is its high social acceptability," Recto said.

"The benefits one may derive from a PhiHealth card are clear to the bearer, unlike a card which was conceived with the security of the state in mind," he added.

"People will be happy carrying this card because it will help them in a medical emergency. They will not leave home without it," Recto said.

Recto said Republic Act 7875, the National Health Insurance Act of 1995, which birthed PhilHealth, calls for the issuance of a "Health Insurance ID Card" to a member.

And because membership in PhilHealth is "universal and compulsory, then all Filipinos should get one."

RA 7875 requires all "citizens to enroll in the National Health Insurance System."

Once enrolled, the member will be given a "Health Insurance ID Card", which, according to the PhilHealth charter, shall be issued by the local office of PhilHealth so that it can "identify the member, verify his eligibility, and record his utilization of benefits."

Also under the said law, a member who transfers residence must inform PhilHealth of his new address, "thus meeting the monitoring requirements of an ideal national ID," Recto explained.

While it guarantees health insurance, the PhilHealth card does not invade one's privacy, Recto said. "The information supplied there is limited to basic ones so that the card doesn't appear as a curriculum vitae."

Recto, however, conceded that the PhilHealth card "may need some tweaking if biometric features of the holder will be included."

On Thursday, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Teresita Herbosa, also co-chair of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), called for a biometrics-based national ID system to deter the creation of fictitious banking accounts like the ones used in laundering the loot from the Bangladesh cyberheist.

"Kung sa Comelec meron na, so hindi na bago 'yang biometrics sa atin," he said. "The card can be reconfigured so it can truly become a 'one card, fits all' document. "Ang hanap natin ay ang Swiss knife version ng ID, with multiple uses."

But Recto said the presentation of a PhilHealth card is not needed by senior citizens - all of whom are covered by PhilHealth due to a law he authored - in accessing and enjoying PhilHealth benefits.

"Magpakita lang sila ng ID bilang patunay na sila'y senior citizen at matatanggap na nila mula sa ospital ang karampatang benepisyong laan sa mga miyembro ng PhilHealth," Recto said.

This is one of the provisions in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Recto-authored RA 10645 which made senior medicare coverage universal by removing the qualification that a senior citizen has to be an indigent before he or she can be enrolled by the government in PhilHealth for free.

Recto said making the PhilHealth card as the "pambansang ID" will also spur the government to place all Filipinos under PhilHealth coverage.

As of latest count, PhilHealth only insures about 90 percent of the population.

Pending in the Senate is Recto's bill, SB No. 2859, creating a "benefits-laden" National ID Card out of the PhilHealth membership card.

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