Senate ratifies Universal Health Care bill

MANILA The Senate on Monday ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the reconciled version of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Bill, which seeks to guarantee equal access to quality and affordable health services for all Filipinos.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, the measure's principal sponsor, lauded the ratification of the landmark measure, describing it as very important and an early Christmas gift for all Filipinos.

Maligayang Pasko po! Napaaga po ang pasko hindi lang sa Senado kundi sa buong Pilipinas (Christmas came early not only here in the Senate, but also in the whole Philippines), he said during his sponsorship speech for the bicam report before the plenary.

I consider this development as a victory of all Filipinos, Ejercito added.

Ejercito, the chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, also thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for his full and open support for the passage of a measure that would provide universal healthcare coverage for all Filipinos.

During his 3rd State of the Nation Address, President Duterte called on Congress to pass the UHC and, later on, certified the bill as urgent.

Inaasahan po natin na sa lalong madaling panahon ay pipirmahan ng Presidente ang UHC upang ganap na maisakatuparan ang garantisado at maaasahang serbisyong pangkalusugan para sa bawat Pilipino (We expect the President to sign the UHC into law as soon as possible so that we could fully realize a quality and reliable health care for all Filipinos), Ejercito said.

Meanwhile, Senator Joel Villanueva also welcomed the Senate ratification of the UHC Bill, saying the bill's inclusion of preventive and promotive health services would alleviate the chances of confinement and encourage a healthy lifestyle among Filipinos.

"Magandang Pamasko po ito sa ating mga kababayan dahil kapag may libreng tsekap, laboratory tests, at diagnostic services na para sa bawat Pilipino, sila ay mas magiging malusog at malayo sa anumang karamdaman (This is a great Christmas gift for our countrymen because if there is free consultation fees, laboratory tests and other diagnostic services, they will be healthier and not prone to illness)," Villanueva said in a statement.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development added that having a healthy citizenry, especially the workforce, would lead to a better economy.

"Kapag may peace of mind ang ating mga kababayan na makapagpagamot, lalo na ang ating mga manggagawa, sila ay mas magiging produktibo, lalago ang negosyo at gaganda ang ating ekonomiya (If our countrymen have peace of mind when they seek medical care, most especially our workers, they will be more productive, business will prosper, and the economy would grow)," Villanueva said.

The proposed measure seeks to institute reforms in the mandates, responsibilities and jurisdiction of agencies that implement the country's universal health care program, such as the Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and local government units.

Under the proposed measure, all Filipino citizens, including overseas Filipino workers will automatically be enrolled into the PhilHealth, whether as direct contributor (those who have the capacity to pay premiums) or indirect contributor (those sponsored by the government like the indigents, senior citizens, among others).

For indirect contributors, premium subsidy shall be included annually in the General Appropriations Act .

PhilHealth coverage would also be expanded to include free consultation fees, laboratory tests and other diagnostic services.

Funds for the said program will be sourced from the incremental sin tax collections, charity fund from Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, income from the Philippine Gaming Corporation, premium contribution of members, annual appropriations of the DOH, and government subsidy to PhilHealth.

The bill also calls for the improvement of doctor-to-patient ratio, upgrading of hospital bed capacities and equipment as well as establishment of hospitals in remote areas.

The bill also provides that all graduates of health-related courses from state universities and colleges or government-funded scholarship programs will be required to serve for at least three years in the public sector. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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