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Universal health care for Pinoys one step closer to reality

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Universal health care for all Filipinos is one step closer to reality, thanks to efforts of the House of Representatives under Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Universal health care for Pinoys one step closer to reality

A bicameral conference committee on Nov. 27 approved the bill seeking to provide health care for all citizens of the country.  The reconciled House and Senate versions of the Universal Health Care bill seeks to automatically enroll all Filipinos in the proposed National Health Insurance Program.

The approval of the UHC bill will allow Filipinos to access proper health care without having to worry about high costs, lawmakers said.

Membership in the program goes two ways – either direct by those who can pay health premiums, or indirect for those sponsored members such as senior citizens and indigents. 

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) would handle the NHIP.

As early as 2004, Arroyo, during her term as President, already pushed for universal health insurance.

In a speech on Feb. 2, 2004 during the launching of Philippine Universal Health Insurance Service, she said: “The best way of helping the poor through social security will be by shoring up the finances of all the social security agencies. And how do we do that? By pursuing our investment and employment programs so that more employees can pay the premium.”

The bill’s reconciled version comes after the House approved House Bill No. 5784 in September 2017 and the Senate approved Senate Bill No. 1896 last October. Congress now has to ratify the reconciled version of the bill before it can be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.

If once Duterte does signs it into law, Filipinos would get immediate eligibility for and access to the full spectrum of health care “• preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care for medical, dental, mental, and emergency health services.

Patients would be registered with a primary health care provider of their choice for outpatient care, medicines, and laboratory tests, as these will be included in PhilHealth’s primary care benefits package.

Members contributing directly would also get more benefits as premiums increase, which lawmakers said would be encouraging for those who pay higher premiums and those who are voluntarily paying.

Membership rates would also gradually increase by 0.5% yearly, while income ceilings for contributions would go up by P10,000 per year.

The UHC also provides for PhilHealth payments for local government unit hospitals to be set aside in a special fund to improve the health facilities in LGUs.

A Health Technology Assessment Council would also be created, to craft recommendations for the development of policies and programs and determine PhilHealth benefit packages.

If the measure is enacted, health care services would transition in phases so they would not be disrupted, solons said, and give implementing agencies time to adjust to the UHC system.

Funds for the UHC implementation would be sourced from:

Department of Health annual budget

Revenues from sin taxes

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (50% of the national government’s share)

Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (40% of the fund, net of documentary stamp tax payments and mandatory contributions)

PhilHealth members’ contributions; and

Government subsidies to PhilHealth.

About P257 billion would be needed to implement universal health care in its first year, the DOH said.


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