By Christine Joyce S. Castañeda, Senior Researcher

SPENDING on health care grew 10.5% in 2016 to P655 billion, with more than half of spending still out-of-pocket, the government reported yesterday.

The Philippine Statistics Authority said total health expenditure (THE) in 2016, as a percentage of gross domestic product, was 4.5%.

Current health expenditures (CHE) accounted for 96.3% of THE while health capital formation expenditures — or assets that health providers have acquired and used in the production of health services — totaled P24 billion or 3.7% of THE.

Filipino households bore most of the burden for health care, with household-out-of-pocket (OOP) spending totaling P342 billion, or 54.2% of the total CHE for the year.

Government schemes and compulsory contributory health care financing schemes accounted for 34.2% or P216 billion.

Voluntary health care payment schemes followed with 11.6% or P73 billion.

Each Filipino spent P6,345 for health-related expenses last year, up 8.7% against the 2015 total based on current prices.

In real terms, per capita health spending grew 6.8% to P4,406.

Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, chief economist at the Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) said that the increase in health spending is “a good sign of progress.”

“If household income is really on an uptick, health spending should correspondingly increase. The increase is a sign of increasing incomes of Filipino households. This goes back again to the steady increase in macroeconomic growth and economic activities,” he added.

“This points to the fact that a lot is still to be done in providing for universal health care,” Mr. Asuncion said.

“In this particular breakdown, one will notice that majority share of current health expenditures still comes from household members. Government schemes, though have already made huge strides toward a bigger role in household health expenditure financing, can still grow and make health care more accessible to all,” he added.

Hospitals were the top recipient of OOP at P259 billion (41.1%), followed by pharmacies at P173 billion (27.5%) and providers of preventive care at P53.3 billion (8.5%).

Asked for his outlook on the sector, UnionBank’s Mr. Asuncion said: “Health care expenditures are growing, and I see that it will continue to grow as government focuses on providing bigger resources for health services, especially for the ones who need access to more health care.”

“As the economy expands, expect that government channel more funds for household health expenditures. Note that, as mentioned previously, the increasing incomes of the majority productive Filipinos, would mean of their income going to health costs.”