"Addressing the health crisis first will be the big push to restarting the stalled engines of our economy."
A new alliance of health advocacy groups has launched UHC Watch to push for the total implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law envisioned to transform the country’s health care system.
As convenor, I am honored to be part of a growing coalition uniting to be a positive force to ensure the full realization of universal health care for all Filipinos.
The event was hosted by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) with various representatives from civil society, the government, and the private sector which also marked exactly two years since the UHC Act was signed into law. UHC Watch is a convergence of civil society groups: CitizenWatch Philippines, Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations, Health Justice, and Bantay Konsyumer, Kalsada, Kuryente (BK3).
Stratbase ADRi Executive Director Paco Pangalangan, in his opening message, said he looks forward to the effective implementation of population-based and individual-based health services, greater access to health technologies by improving government procurement mechanisms such as pooled-procurement, and the standardization of health information systems for the efficient delivery of health services.
Undersecretary for Health Policy and Systems Development Team Department of Health Undersecretary Dr. Mario C. Villaverde said: “The Universal Health Care Act addresses fragmentation issues in service delivery through the integration of local health systems. To this end DOH issued the policy on integration of local health systems into province wide and citywide health systems.”
President of the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations Ms. Ma Fatima “Girlie” Garcia-Lorenzo said, “We need to go beyond knee-jerk responses and activate well established systems to cope with the increased demand for health service. We also see the need to strengthen social entitlements and safety nets as part of a universal service that become accessible to the most vulnerable.”
BK3 Convenor Louie Montemar emphasized that cost is the consumer’s top concern, “Though there is Maximum Retail Price is now implemented, which helps lighten the out-of-pocket purchase of medicines, other ways of expanding access to most consumers who cannot even afford to buy medicines such as pooled procurement should be prioritized.”
Former Secretary of Health and Health Justice Philippines Board Member, Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, said that although the Philippines has shown significant improvements our health care system is still dealing with inequities and new challenges that threaten the health of its population while Filipinos continue to suffer a heavy financial burden from health spending.
Cancer Coalition of the Philippines President Paul Perez said that health emergency preparedness should be part of a vision to build a healthy Philippines. He cited WHO data that reported investments in preparedness would only cost US$ 5 per person annually, whereas the cost of this pandemic is already over US$ 11 trillion emphasizing that preparations should start now.
Prime proponent of the UHC law, former Senator JV Ejercito said, “We must persistently reminder government fulfill its mandate to deliver the programs of these laws. The success of our health programs will foster a productive workforce that will help push the country’s economic momentum and recovery.”
A study from KPMG shows well managed investments in health care positively impacts the economy because of the increased productivity of a healthier workforce and increased life expectancy. It shows that for middle income countries, increasing the average life expectancy by one year could potentially increase the country’s GDP per capita by 4 percent. International studies have estimated healthy workers increase labor productivity by 20 to 45 percent in the medium to long-term.
A well implemented UHC will revitalize the private sector to drive our economic recovery by creating jobs and pay the taxes that the government needs to finance public services and invest in priority infrastructure projects.
With UHC we hope to finally realize health care equality and rights, leading to eventually end the risk of medical bankruptcies or economic catastrophe. We hope to see quality services in every health care facility of the country and nurture a culture of disease prevention that starts from early childhood to senior care, from vaccination, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle.
The best technologies must be utilized to empower our healthcare institutions with digital solutions for pooled procurement of health technologies to maximize limited funding resources. The digital transformation of our health ecosystem will ensure transparency, efficiency, and accessibility of healthcare services
Very soon, the government will be working on the next budget call for the 2022 National Expenditure Plan. Ensuring that there is adequate funding of all health laws to progressively realize the vision of Universal Health Care will be one of the focuses of UHC Watch.
I believe that only through a whole-of-society strategy can we move past these unprecedented times and that addressing the health crisis first,will be the big push to restarting the stalled engines of our economy.
Only with healthy people can we have a healthy economy.