A MAJORITY of Filipinos said they intend to finance their medical expenses from savings or debt, according to the findings of a health and wellness study by PhilCare, a health maintenance organization (HMO).

PhilCare also found that the Philippines is considered “far behind” in terms of health care and wellness compared to other countries it tracked.

On Wednesday, PhilCare said the Philippine Wellness Index 2019 returned a score of 2.84, classifying the industry’s performance as “somewhat good.” The 2019 report represents the second study since 2014, and factored in interview results from 1,350 participants.

The study’s lead researcher, Fernando D. Paragas, said during a briefing Wednesday that the Philippines is behind health care practices in other countries tracked like New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.

“We’re still far and as you can see, most indices are from the more well-off countries. They have measures to promote health and wellness while we are just starting,” Mr. Paragas said.

The 2019 Wellness Index included the finances of its respondents, and one of the findings was that many Filipinos are unable to easily afford healthcare.

The survey showed that 40% declared themselves uncertain about being able to afford medical expenses. Some 35% said they are uncertain if they can pay for regular checkups.

Some 37% said they will pay for medical expenses out of savings, while 25% said they plan to borrow money from friends and relatives when the need arises. Only 15% said they have an HMO.

The study also tried to evaluate physical, lifestyle, nutritional, and psychological wellness of respondents, with participants rating their psychological wellness as “good” while the rest of the categories were “somewhat good.”

PhilCare President and CEO Jaeger L. Tanco said that the HMO is looking to submit its findings to the government. He added that former Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona serves on the PhilCare Board.

“This is something we will discuss with Dr. Ona. We do plan to submit it and inform the public of the findings,” he told BusinessWorld.

Mr. Tanco added that the company is also planning to add more services and packages.

Mr. Ona said that PhilCare’s study will be available as a reference for government agencies implementing the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law. He added, “PhilCare will also forge partnerships with the government sector so they can use this proprietary study to draft relevant policies. We have findings in this study that may be very useful in the goal of the government to attain truly universal health care.” — Gillian M. Cortez