SENATOR Joseph Victor G. Ejercito presented to the plenary on Tuesday the universal health care bill providing for the automatic inclusion of all Filipinos under the National Health Insurance Program of the Philippines Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
In his sponsorship speech, Mr. Ejercito, chair of the Senate committee on health and demography, said Senate Bill No. 1896 or the proposed Universal Health Care for All Filipinos Act guarantees the equal access of quality and affordable health goods and services for Filipinos.
It also clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the PhilHealth, Department of Health (DoH), local government units, and the private sector as well in delivering health care.
“Every Filipino is automatically covered or included under the National Health Insurance Program as direct or indirect contributor. We also expanded the scope of service coverage as well as strengthened preventive and promotive aspects of health care services,” Mr. Ejercito said.
He cited data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) indicating that spending on health increased to P6,345 for every Filipino in 2016, from P5,840 in 2015.
In the same year, household out-of-pocket payments rose to 54.2% of the total medical bill or P342 billion while only 34.2% or P216 billion was covered by the government. Voluntary health care payment schemes, meanwhile, accounted for 11.6% or P73 billion.
Senators Juan Edgardo M. Angara, Joel J. Villanueva, Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, and Nancy S. Binay-Angeles also co-sponsored the proposed measure.
Under the proposed measure, PhilHealth is mandated to manage the pool of funds allocated for health programs from contributions, subsidies, administrative fines, donations, grant, and appropriations from various government agencies such as the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).
A National Health Workforce Support System will be established under the bill tasked to strengthen public-owned or —led service delivery networks and to address the lack of health workers.
Service delivery networks composed of the public and private institutions will also be created to address the increased cases in tertiary hospitals that can be treated in nearby heath centers as well.
The bill also provides a Health Technology Assessment Council to determine the safety of investments for health care. Mr. Ejercito said this process will prevent the experience of the government in the Dengvaxia controversy. The council is composed of experts capable of validating and developing policies to recommend for the DoH and PhilHealth.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte certified the bill as an urgent measure early July. Its counterpart measure in the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading in September. It has been identified as among the priority bills of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC). — Camille A. Aguinaldo