DOH pushes for public health improvement in 2018

MANILA -- Aiming to ensure that every Filipino shall receive affordable and quality health benefits, the Department of Health (DOH) in 2018 pushed for the signing of the universal health care (UHC) bill into law.

The bill's reconciled version came following the approved Senate Bill No. 1896 and House Bill No. 5784 in November. Both the upper and lower chambers now have to ratify the reconciled version of the bill before it can be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.

It seeks to enroll automatically all Filipinos in the National Health Insurance Program. The membership in the program can be direct or indirect. Direct membership is for those who can pay health premiums, while indirect membership is for those who are sponsored like senior citizens and indigents. The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will handle the program.

The Bicameral Conference Committee's approval of the Universal Health Care Bill is continued positive news for all Filipinos. I applaud this progress and commend all members of the Senate and Congress involved for getting this done. The UHC will bring the much-needed reform of our health care system and provide every Filipino a quality and affordable health care each one deserves, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

The UHC bill, when enacted to law, will catalyze reforms for the health care system in the Philippines, particularly strengthening primary care services, through PhilHealth.

Duque said it would also correct the inefficiencies in the current health system, as it will empower community health units in the provision of quality health care to every Filipino.

What makes our current health system inefficient and expensive is people with the most simple health issues go now to the third level, the hospitals, kaya naman mapangasiwaan ito sa barangay (which can be attended to at the community) health stations, which are basic delivery units closest to the communities, he said.

Duque explained this practice would help Filipinos lower their expenses on health care, since they don't have to travel far just to receive treatment for common health disorders.

UHC Funds

The DOH said about PHP257 billion would be needed to implement UHC in its first year.

During his third State of the Nation Address, Duterte signified his support to the bill by ensuring its adequate funding through the department's annual budget, 50 percent of the national government's share in the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation's earnings, 40 percent of the fund, net of documentary stamp tax payments and mandatory contributions of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, PhilHealth members' contributions, Government subsidies to PhilHealth, and revenues from the sin taxes.

"Considering the existing budget, the funding gap is estimated to be around PHP164.04 billion, and to lessen these funding gaps increase in tobacco taxes are seen important," Duque said.

In connection with this, DOH is still pushing for a for a PHP90 per pack increase in tobacco excise tax, which would be beneficial for the full implementation of the UHC bill.

This is despite the decision of the house committee on ways and means to increase the excise taxes on tobacco products from the current PHP32.50 to PHP37.50 only in July 2019.

"Not only will it provide funding to UHC, but also the reduction of smoking prevalence in the country," Duque said. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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