Philippines Hospitals CANNOT Imprison You for Non Payment

ambulance leaving guimaras provincial hospital

According to the Constitution of the Philippines “no one shall be imprisoned for nonpayment of debt or poll tax.” It is common practice in the Philippines to hold patients hostage until their bill is fully paid. I know from personal experience. When you have a guard armed with a shotgun at the exit of a hospital that has to scrutinize your officially paid receipt before you can leave, it does prompt one to pay that bill in full before checking out.  A recent column in the Inquirer Lifestyle pointed out that such hospitals are in violation of the Constitution.  What can one do if you find yourself with an unpaid balance as you try to leave your Philippines hospital?

Bridget Suarez Sexy NurseWell, according to the Inquirer article, just  “petition the court for a writ of habeas corpus.  The Court will then order the hospital to explain why it is detaining the patient against his will.” The Inquirer article points out that holding  a patient because of their  inability to pay the bill in full is tantamount to “imprisonment for nonpayment of debt,” and is prohibited by the Constitution. The patient can write a promissory note and if they  fail to pay, the hospital can then file a civil suit to collect what is owed.

In a related issue, the article goes on to say that a bill  filed by Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo would require hospitals and other health care providers to prominently display  their price lists for services and products. Rep. Romulo states, and I can absolutely relate to this, that  patients get billed for almost every item they use during their confinement, including cotton balls, toilet paper, thermometers, and so on.  He wants patients to be given the option of buying some of the things they need from outside, where they are cheaper, which is a good idea as long as your visit to the hospital is planned, and not an emergency visit like I had for my kidney stone attack last February.

Well, as you might already be aware, I’m not one that favors Big Government ‘s anywhere to  stick their nose where it does not belong,  but along with the proposed Simplified Annulment law pending, the bill filed by this Filipino legislator sounds like a good one. I guess when you experience  a situation a proposed law seeks to amend, it changes your outlook.  I, for one, however, will not try that “writ of habeas corpus” tactic. I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about the business end of a shotgun that will encourage me to pay the bill before I leave any Philippines hospital.  No plastic Blue Cross card that I know of  is going to stop a shotgun blast!

(P.S. to the guys! I can already guess someone of you might make a comment that you wouldn’t mind being imprisoned in a hospital with a nurse like the one shown in the photo above,  but let me beat you to the punch! I hope this makes up for the horrific Octomom photo.)

Author: The Kano

POST AUTHOR: "THE KANO." Dave DeWall, "The Kano", is the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of "Philippines Plus" in publication since August 2009. He is also the CEO of Lizard Poop Productions and author of the best-selling guide book "The Philippines Expat Advisor." Dave moved to the Philippines in July 2009 from Central Illinois with his lovely wife of over 19 years, "The Sainted Patient Wife." The couple reside in a rural province in Western Visayas, Guimaras. The small island province is said to have the sweetest mangoes in the world. They do not have any children but are the proud owners of eight active canines, including a Belgian Shepherd called "Killer" "Killer" has bitten five people in the last two years along with one goat and a carabao. "Killer" doesn't like strangers. Or goats. Or carabaos.

39 thoughts on “Philippines Hospitals CANNOT Imprison You for Non Payment

  1. I see this as a catch 22 for someone that cannot pay their bill in full when they leave the hospital. They have to stay at the hospital longer and their bill just continues to go higher, making it even more difficult to pay the bill.

    I don’t know what the solution is to this, however I do understand the hospital’s view about collecting their money, since many would just shun the bill if they were let out without paying.

    But on the other hand, people in the hospital do not choose to be there, but are there because they have a problem. Sometimes these people may not have the cash to pay the bill, but can either get the money at a later date, or pay monthly.

    I think it would be better to have a monthly payment set up to pay a monthly payment to the hospital directly from their bank account. This could be done at the time of checkin. This way the hospital gets paid and the patient is not stuck in the hospital jail. But with that said, I am sure there are complication with my proposed solution.

    I wonder what people do that cannot pay their bill, and have no means to do so, do they become a permanent resident at the hospital?

    1. Your monthly payment idea seems likes a good option to me, Jakeb. Don’t know if the hospitals would go for it, however sound it might sound to me. I checked with my asawa and asked her the question “What happens if you cannot pay the bill?” The answer: “You do NOT leave the hospital until someone produces the money so you can leave.” I remember when my mother-in-law, “The Feared Giant Lizard Killer” was hospitalized by a stroke in June 2009 right before we moved to the Phils. She had to sell three cows and borrow over P15.000 from a neighbor in order to get out of the hospital. She could NOT leave until that bill was paid. Sounds harsh, but “only in the Philippines.”

      1. I heard if you can’t pay your bill then the hospital will start decreasing the amount of food they give you in order to encourage you to find some money.

    2. Along a similar line, if a patient can’t pay and petitions the court for a writ of habeas corpus, their hospital bill will increase while they are waiting for the court to get them out of the hospital. When they get out, it will be tougher for them to pay the larger bill.

  2. My sister in law and her husband were not allowed to leave the hospital until everything was paid in full. There are many laws here in the Philippines but having someone enforce them is another matter. Mike borrowed money from family and friends. A thousand here and a thousand there. My sister in law stayed a extra day because of that. Mike works a Ace Hardware in the SM Mall but the pay is low. We helped all we could but can only do so much. The hospital looked like it came out of the 1950’s Add to that … all the best doctors and nurses are out of the country trying to find a good paying job. SIGH!


    1. Your story confirms what my experience was with my kidney stone attack last year, Gary, along with what my asawa has told me. You don’t leave until the bill is paid. That’s the way it is. I have some friends at Ace Hardware at SM City in Iloilo City, and for the Visayas region the DAILY pay is P265, about six US Dollars. I was told the pay in the Luzon area is slightly higher and slightly lower in Mindanao. How can you support a family on that and still pay a hospital bill?

  3. As you know, John Jackson, any visit to a hospital in the Philippines is a unique experience, to say the least. My wife and I will be going next month for some annual check-ups, and I’ll be reporting on the costs of those later. I don’t look forward to it, but at my advanced age, soon to be 59, it’s just a good idea.

    If I had a nurse like that I’d be inclined to stay for a few weeks, too, but my asawa probably would demand a change of nurses with my luck.

  4. Hi John Jackson,

    When I was a young lad of 20 years old I was almost killed at work. Spent a few weeks in the hospital and had to learn how to walk again. I had a girlfriend at the time (later to be wife #1} and one of her friends was my 2nd shift nurse. My how that girl could give a backrub! One time she got a little low. I liked it! That was the end of the backrubs. The GF took her outside and gave her the low down on what would happen if she gave me any kind of backrub. Ahh to be young again.


    1. Well, Gary, it sounds like you had quite a pleasant experience back then despite the circumstances that got you there. I bet your asawa would frown on any such backrubs at any hospital in the Phils, that’s for sure. The “offender” might get more than a verbal thrashing here.

  5. Well..Dave…if that was my nurse, then I would not mind being in the hospital for life…hahaha but I do not think she is a real nurse…she looks ready for Play Boy Mag!

    1. What! Dan, you question her nursing qualifications? I mean I did get this photo through Flickr which had it posted from some site called “Chickababes!” You mean she’s not legit? I’m shattered.

  6. If you’re a single guy and can’t pay your hospital bill, you could always try to marry one of the nurses and ask her to sneak you out the back door, ha ha.

      1. Maybe, but hopefully my travel insurance would pay for any hospitalization I require in the Philippines. Also, the travel insurance says it will pay for a private nurse during hospitalization if one is required. Dave, what type of tasks do you think a private nurse would perform that wouldn’t be taken care of by the regular nurses in a Philippines hospital? I am of course thinking of fetching medications from the pharmacy, etc if the patient doesn’t have a relative to help them. LOL

        1. I honestly don’t know if any hospital in the Philippines would honor your travel insurance without you having to pay the bill first and getting reimbursed later. I wonder if anyone reading this has had any similar experiences with travel insurance in the Philippines? I remember having to take my wife to an emergency room hospital in Quezon City back in September 2000 before she got her Spousal Visa to the United States. We were in a taxi when she started getting terrible stomach cramps, and the pain was so great she was crying. She’s tough so I knew something was wrong. Got her to the emergency room, and they did x-rays and tests and determined the cramps were due to her monthly period which could be extreme at times. Gave her some meds. I paid our bill which was about 20 dollars, USD.

          Well, I just have to wonder where the hospital is located before I could determine what kind of services the private nurse might perform. Would a private nurse in Angeles City be available to fetch your medications? Hmmmmmmmmm.

          1. I brought two credit cards plus my Blue Cross health insurance when I was in the Philippines, I figured I’d have to pay any medical bills up front and get reimbursed. Fortunately I never had to use my medical insurance so don’t know the answer. I’ve also never been to Angeles City so don’t know if the private nurses there are different than other places in the Philippines. Maybe some of your other readers would know, lol.

            1. Yes, you can use credit cards to pay your bill, Lance. We don’t have any credit cards, and don’t miss them. However, they would come in handy for medical emergencies.
              As far as the private nurses in Angeles City, I don’t know if anyone familiar with any of them would want to make a public comment!

    1. Try this Lance,

      Pretty nurse shows up and you say “Nurse would you check my pulse please?” Her reply to a handsome guy like you will be “Sure, I will be glad to. Is something wrong?” Then you say ” YES! My heart just skipped a beat when I saw you.” She will be hooked!



      1. Thanks Gary, I tried something similar once. There were some student nurses doing their practicum at the Chocolate Hills in Bohol and taking people’s pulses. A nurse checked my pulse and said my heart was beating fast, but before I could say my line she ruined it by saying that it was probably from me just having climbed up and down the Chocolate Hills.

        A while after we got home, my Filipina-Canadian girlfriend (at the time) told me that this nurse later became famous after she was on the Big Brother Philippines TV show. I never saw it, but can’t help but wonder if on the show she talked about the handsome kano that she met at the Chocolate Hills one day, lol.

        1. Lance Lance Lance .. you have to think faster than that!! Look at what you missed. Oh Grasshopper .. you have much to learn. 🙂

          73 de kb0ni

          1. Hi Gary. Actually I think I made the right decision in not saying anything to the nurse, since my girlfriend was sitting beside me, lol. Also, the nurse had a mustache, so I didn’t think she was very pretty. 🙁

        2. Well, Lance, as you get older like Gary and myself, maybe you’ll be able to deliver those lines smoother and quicker. That would be about the only thing I can deliver quicker now, speaking for myself and not Gary.

          No doubt the nurse was talking about you, Lance. The self-proclaimed, I mean the “best-looking” guy in Canada.

          1. No matter how old the guy is, I don’t think he could smoothly deliver that line to a nurse with his Filipina girlfriend sitting next to him. But if you insist it can be done, let’s go to the hospital with Melinda the next time I am in Guimaras and see what she says when you try it, ha ha.

  7. I asked Meriam if I could do that when we were at the hospital in CDO. She said “sure.” She knows I am harmless. 🙂

    Didn’t have the right nurse to try it on, plus it was a sad time.

  8. Hi, I couldn’t help leave this page without offering a piece of info regarding this awful practice which has not only left many Filipino families debt stricken to the point that even babies be kept from growing up at home with their mothers and fathers.

    You can call me Ena. I’m a 23 year old mother who recently gave birth at a private hospital here in Cavite. My son, our firstborn was born at only 33 weeks and has been at the hospital for 42 days now. My husband tried to talk with the guy in charge of the credit and collection to strike a bargain to pay a partial amount and set up postdated checks and even offered to bring in a comaker or guarantor just to make sure the money gets their on the said dates. The gentleman simply refused the offer dictating we pay more than half of the balance and that they wouldn’t give us much time anyway for the rest of the balance to be set up in payments like that. I was devastated. We had been through hell and back this whole month just praying for our son to survive and this guy says we can’t bring our son out unless we do it on his terms. Turns out there is a law against this which is called the Republic Act 9439, otherwise known as “An Act Prohibiting the Detention of Patients in Hospitals and Medical Clinics on Grounds of Nonpayment of Hospital Bills or Medical Expenses”.

    We will be back tomorrow to try reasoning with this guy again or we let every newspaper and television station know that this has to stop now!

    1. You’re right about that law, Ena. It has been awhile since I’ve posted this article, and hopefully your remark can educate more Filipinos about this
      Republic Act 9439. My wife’s uncle was released from the hospital after suffering a stroke, and after reaching an agreement to pay the rest of the bill (P 15,000) in a week. Well, the family did not have the funds to pay the remainder of the bill in a week, and now unfortunately her uncle passed away a few days ago. It is a utter shame that the hospitals in the Philippines treat their citizens like this.

      I pray that your son grows stronger and healthier every day. I also pray that the hospital will show some compassion and follow the law.

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