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In the Philippines some hospitals try to hold patients hostage until their bill is fully paid. I know from personal experience. An armed guard at a hospital’s exit scrutinizes your officially paid receipt before you can leave. If you haven’t paid your bill in full, the guard may stop you from leaving. Today’s post, “Philippine Hospitals CANNOT Imprison You for Non-Payment,” explains why this practice is illegal on the part of any hospital.

Animal bite treatment center at Guimaras provincial hospital

Philippine Hospitals CANNOT Imprison You for Non-Payment

REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9439, effective April 27, 2007, states: “It shall be unlawful for any hospital or medical clinic in the country to detain or to otherwise cause, directly or indirectly, the detention of patients who have fully or partially recovered or have been adequately attended to or who may have died, for reasons of nonpayment in part or in full of hospital bills or medical expenses.”

Photo courtesy of Pixabay


Here’s a look at the complete law from the Philippine Dept. of Health and the Congress of the Philippines:


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:

SECTION 1. It shall be unlawful for any hospital or medical clinic in the country to detain or to otherwise cause, directly or indirectly, the detention of patients who have fully or partially recovered or have been adequately attended to or who may have died, for reasons of nonpayment in part or in full of hospital bills or medical expenses.

SEC. 2. Patients who have fully or partially recovered and who already wish to leave the hospital or medical clinic but are financially incapable to settle, in part or in full, their hospitalization expenses, including professional fees and medicines, shall be allowed to leave the hospital or medical clinic, with a right to demand the issuance of the corresponding medical certificate and other pertinent papers required for the release of the patient from the hospital or medical clinic upon the execution of a promissory note covering the unpaid obligation. The promissory note shall be secured by either a mortgage or by a guarantee of a co-maker, who will be jointly and severally liable with the patient for the unpaid obligation. In the case of a deceased patient, the corresponding death certificate and other documents required for interment and other purposes shall be released to any of his surviving relatives requesting for the same: Provided, however, That patients who stayed in private rooms shall not be covered by this Act.

SEC. 3. Any officer or employee of the hospital or medical clinic responsible for releasing patients, who violates the provisions of this Act shall be punished by a fine of not less than Twenty thousand pesos (P20,000.00), but not more than Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00), or imprisonment of not less than one month, but not more than six months, or both such fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the proper court.

SEC. 4. The Department of Health shall promulgate the necessary rules and regulations to carry out the provisions of this Act.

SEC. 5. If any provision of this Act is declared void and unconstitutional, the remaining provisions hereof not affected thereby shall remain in full force and effect.

SEC. 6, All laws, decrees, orders, rules and regulations or parts thereof inconsistent with this Act are hereby repealed or amended accordingly.

Philippine Dept of Health, DOH, website

Therefore, holding a patient because of their  inability to pay the bill in full is tantamount to “imprisonment for nonpayment of debt.” This practice is contrary to the Constitution of the Philippines.

The patient can write a promissory note and if they fail to pay, the hospital can then file a civil suit.

(Update August 29, 2021- Originally published February 2011)


  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. 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!


  3. 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.


  4. 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!

  5. 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 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.

    2. 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. 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.

        3. Dave, don’t forget to include the site’s good looking and humble author.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

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