Executive checkups for senior citizens
First of all, allow me to add a few more notes on some of the other distinguished members of UP High School class of 1951. In my last column I featured Raul Daza, a Liberal Party loyalist.
Ambassador Lilia R. Bautista finished law at the UP
College of Law and served as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. She was later appointed as permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva.
Manuel “Noli” Barcelona was a member of the Commission on Elections before serving with the Manila Economic and Cultural
Office in Taipei. He is a brother of the late Court of Appeals justice Ramon Barcelona.
Perhaps the most illustrious member of the class is Dr. Benito S. Vergara.
Ben’s motto in our high school yearbook was: “Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.”
After a long career spent at the International Rice Research Institute (Irri) in “a life devoted to promoting science in the Philippines,” he was named national scientist by the National Academy of Science and Technology for achievements in rice physiology and work in promoting rice science and technology. His Irri publication, “A Farmer’s Primer on Growing Rice,” has been translated and printed in over 50 languages and, to this day, is in use around the world by agriculturists, extension workers, and farmers.
Ben was also instrumental in the establishment of the Rice World Museum and Learning Center as well as the Philippine Science Heritage Center or Salinlahi, which features the scientific and technological achievements of Filipino scientists.
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As senior citizens grow older, the importance of regular
executive checkups becomes more pronounced. The topic of conversation at social gatherings noticeably shifts from office politics, community and national issues, to health-related subjects: blood pressure, sugar levels, cholesterol counts, urinary tract infections or prostate problems.
Last week I received a letter from senior citizen Damaso G. Magbual. He writes: “I am 73 years old but still relatively healthy, as I go for regular checkups. In the past I would see at least five doctors every year at different dates since they have different clinic hours. Travel time made more burdensome by terrible traffic is taking a toll on me. Hence, I decided to check in at the Manila Medical Center (my hospital since 1978 where I have had five surgeries already) at UN Avenue for two days, so I can see the different doctors in two days. I was told that the hospital offers certain plans for executive checkups. I opted for plan A and I was told to pay P32,550. I inquired if they have deducted the usual senior citizen discount granted under the law. I was told that ‘an executive checkup is a package and it is not entitled to any discount including that for senior citizens.’
“General Farolan, I would like to know if it is true that an executive checkup is exempt from a senior citizen discount because it is a ‘package’? I called the Department of Health (DOH) and I was told that they have no supervision over private hospitals and I was advised instead to seek the opinion of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). I was informed that establishments under the supervision of the DTI offering ‘promos and discounts’ are still mandated to give the usual senior citizen discount on top of the promo and discounts offered.
“I seek your counsel and advice.”
I was surprised by the fact that DOH officials were not able to provide Mr. Magbual with any answers, since as they put it, “they have no supervision over private hospitals.” I believe that government health officers should be well-versed and knowledgeable about issues that affect the health and wellbeing of our citizens. It has nothing to do “with supervision over private hospitals.” By the way, if the DOH has no supervision over private hospitals, who shoulders this responsibility?
As to the question raised, the law is quite clear. Rule IV, Privilege of Senior Citizens, of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Senior Citizen Act, Section 1 [c] reads: “Medical and Dental Services in Private Facilities—Medical and dental services that are requested by a physician for the diagnosis of illness or injury are subject to the 20 percent discount and VAT exemption. Under section 1 (d), professional fees of attending physicians in all private hospitals shall be subject to the 20 percent discount and VAT exemption.”
In simple terms, an executive checkup in private facilities is subject to the senior citizen discount, and this is true for professional fees of attending physicians.
The DTI opinion is correct. On top of any promo being offered — this is similar to the executive checkup being offered as a package — business establishments are still mandated to give senior citizen discount on top of the promo or package deal being offered. Since the package deal is being offered to all, the senior citizen status is not being honored if he pays the same as everyone else.
My advice to Mr. Magbual is to insist on the senior citizen discount. The matter should not be discussed with some clerk in the cashier’s office. Clerks have their own rules and instructions to follow. It is best to sit down with the hospital administrator for an intelligent discussion in a friendly and respectful manner. Should the hospital insist on their position, you may decide to take them to court. I realize this is an expensive and lengthy course of action but Romulo Macalintal, the famous election lawyer, has volunteered to help senior citizens in their quest for justice and fairness pro bono.
And finally, this prayer should be of help:
Dear Lord, in Thine Own mysterious ways enlighten our
businessmen and hospital administrators so that they may see the wisdom of honoring the senior citizen discount for executive checkups. Other than our meager pensions, it is the only thing the law has given us in our old age and unfortunately, some hospitals still disregard even what the law has clearly granted. This we ask in Christ’s Name. Amen.
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