CHINA CONSTRUCTS | Louise Nichole Logarta
Several days ago, I was tasked by my father to obtain his PhilHealth number for a medical procedure he needed to have done. Being a senior citizen, he was already an automatic member of the state health insurer. My first move was to go online to the PhilHealth website and quickly found the step by step process on how to enroll him as a member, which I believed would give him a number.
It sounded fairly straightforward and simple: fill out two copies of the registration form, submit it to the Office of Senior Citizen Affairs in his city or municipality of residence and await the Member Data Record (MDR) issued by PhilHealth.
That is exactly what we did. But on the morning of the day when my father’s assistant had brought the necessary documents to OSCA, I received a call from the assistant and told me that a Senior Citizen Affairs personnel told him that they do not issue MDRs. Instead, the only thing they could provide was a certification that my father is indeed registered in that OSCA.
I asked to speak to whomever my father’s assistant had told him that. I told the OSCA staff member that we did as the instructions on the PhilHealth website said, but he insisted that they do not give whatever it was we needed. I then asked him if he could tell me what the next step was, but surprise, surprise, he said he could not help me.
Frustrated, I called up the PhilHealth office right after but was unable to talk to a real person even after nearly 45 minutes being on hold. I decided to try again on another day.
On Monday, I resolved to call PhilHealth and get to the bottom of this. After being put on hold this time for 30 minutes and being subjected to listening to the agency’s recorded promises that registering as a member was as easy as one-two-three, I was finally able to talk to a customer service representative. After relaying my story to him, he informed me that the senior citizen in question—my father—should have been personally present at OSCA, where they were supposed to have given a form that he should fill out and sign.
Be that as it may, OSCA personnel Josh failed to tell me about any such form. Their bottom line was that, no, they do not help with enrolling senior citizens in PhilHealth. Thankfully, the health insurer representative was very helpful and gave me my father’s PhilHealth number.
I tell this story because it forces me to question the efficiency of communication between agencies that are supposed to work together. What was supposed to be an easy process took several days just to achieve. A person with less patience, resources and time would have given up.
To borrow the words of Sen. Joel Villanueva regarding the contradicting statements of the authorities on the use of face shields: “Gawa kayo ng group chat.” Maybe if they did, the whole process would have been less painful.
All in all, it was a very discouraging experience. In fact, many government agencies have the same problem. There’s so much red tape to go through, fees to pay, and all that only to be told that there’s a missing requirement, and the fault lies with us.
While we are blameless in this particular situation, I have to point out that it is neither the fault of the people who work at OSCA. An organization is only as efficient as its head, in this case, the Quezon City mayor, Joy Belmonte. Granted, she is preoccupied with larger issues like the eZConsult fiasco. But that’s no excuse.
Especially in the time of a global pandemic, whatever happened to the promise of ease of business? Why don’t these agencies get their stories straight and improve their communication? Even online portals are unhelpful, as they are often offline or under maintenance. I would think that they would focus their efforts on making life easier for the public they supposedly serve.