The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) recently expanded its coverage of essential health services for newborns to enable early detection and management of more congenital disorders which may lead to mental retardation and even death if left untreated.
In its PhilHealth Circular No. 2018-0021 which took effect on January 6, 2019, the state health insurer introduced the enhanced Newborn Care Package, increasing the amount of coverage from P1,750 to P2,950 which pays for supplies for essential newborn care such as Vitamin K, eye ointment, vaccines for hepatitis B and BCG; expanded Newborn Screening test; Newborn Hearing Screening Test; and fees for attending professionals.
The essential newborn care also includes immediate drying of the baby, early skin to skin contact, timely cord clamping, non-separation of mother/baby for early breastfeeding initiation, weighing of the baby, among others.
Meanwhile, the expanded newborn screening test will be able to detect endocrine, amino and fatty acid disorders; organic acid, urea cycle defect, cystic fibrosis, hemoglobinopathies, biotinidase deficiency, and other disorders.
Newborn screening aims to detect at the earliest stage certain genetic and metabolic conditions that may lead to mental retardation or morbidity if left untreated. The screening was integrated into the public health delivery system with the enactment of Republic Act 9288 or the Newborn Screening Act of 2004.
The enhancement in the package is in support of the National Comprehensive Newborn Screening System which expanded the screening from six to over 28 disorders pursuant to Department of Health Administrative Order No. 2014-0045 which issued guidelines on the implementation of the expanded Newborn Screening Program.
The PhilHealth Circular provides that the enhanced package shall be dispensed to qualified newborns delivered in all accredited health care institutions that perform deliveries and provide newborn care which include hospitals, infirmaries/dispensaries, and birthing homes/lying-in clinics.
To ensure entitlement to the said benefit, newborns need to be in the facility for at least 24 hours after birth except those who warrant immediate referral to a higher level facility.
The state health insurer encouraged all active and expecting PhilHealth members to avail of the said package in order to provide newborns with the needed services that will help reduce morbidity and mortality and eliminate the costs associated with treatment and care of lifelong debilitating conditions. (END) (Emelita M. Retuta)