In support of the National Comprehensive Newborn Screening System, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Inc. (PhilHealth) recently expanded its coverage of essential health services for newborns. In its PhilHealth Circular No. 2018-0021, which took effect on January 5, 2019, the PhilHealth 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.
Newborn screening is a public health program that aims to detect at the earliest stage certain congenital conditions that may lead to mental retardation or morbidity if left untreated. The newborn screening program in the Philippines started in 1996 as a concerted effort of 24 hospitals in Metro Manila. The national implementation of the program came after the signing of the Republic Act 9288 or the Newborn Screening Act of 2004 which mandates that every baby born in the Philippines be given the opportunity to undergo newborn screening and thus be spared from heritable conditions that can lead to mental retardation and death if left undetected and untreated.
In 2014, through the DOH Administrative Order No. 2014-0045, expanded Newborn Screening was implemented increasing the panel of disorders from six (6) to more than twenty (20) disorders falling under various types of conditions namely: disorders of amino acid metabolism, organic acid metabolism, disorders of fatty acid oxidation, carbohydrate metabolism, biotin metabolism, as well as cystic fibrosis, hemoglobinopathies and endocrine disorders. This important move is foreseen to benefit many Filipino newborns who would otherwise remain undiagnosed with the basic 6-test.
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 while reducing health care costs associated with treatment of lifelong debilitating conditions.