Makati City leads the way in socialized health care

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Medicine Cabinet

IN 1986, Mayor Jejomar Binay signed an agreement with the Makati Medical Center to allot a number of beds to poor residents, with the city government subsidizing the beneficiaries’ hospital bill. The increasing demand for health services eventually prompted the city government to push for the construction of its own full-service hospital.

Thirty-two years later, the Makati Health Plus (MHP) Program, more popularly known as the “Yellow Card,” continues to provide indigent and low-income residents, and other beneficiaries with access to quality health care through subsidized hospitalization and free outpatient services at the city government run hospital; Ospital ng Makati (Osmak).

Yellow Card beneficiaries are also entitled to free check-ups or consultations at Makati City’s 26 barangay health centers and two lying-in clinics, which provide primary care services. Services offered include general consultation, maternal care, child care (i.e. immunization, etc.), nutrition service, dental services, communicable disease control, among others. Six of these barangay health centers host satellite laboratories, three in each district, which augment the services being provided by the main laboratories at Osmak and the Makati Health Department in City Hall. The Palanan Health Center is open 24 hours, seven days a week to address the needs of working parents so they do not have to file a leave of absence from their jobs to bring their children to the doctor.

“The Yellow Card remains one of the biggest perks of being a ‘Makatizen,’ a term that refers not only to city residents, but to other beneficiaries as well,” said Ryan F. Barcelo, MHP, assistant head, Social Welfare Development Department, Makati City Government, who spoke on behalf of Mayor Abigail Binay during the 2018 Health for Juan and Juana Forum.

Yellow Card beneficiaries include senior citizens, Persons With Disability (PWDs), city government workers, and employees of selected Makati-based national government agencies. The current number of beneficiaries is estimated at almost 250,000, with almost 200,000 active cardholders, close to 50% of whom hold Family Cards, according to Barcelo.


The city government recently adopted a new payment scheme for Yellow Card holders confined in Osmak. For hospital bills exceeding P5,000, beneficiaries only have to pay a uniform rate of P500. Those whose hospital bill is below P5,000 do not have to pay anything. On average, the city government subsidizes around 80% of Yellow Card holders’ total hospital bill in Osmak.

In 2013, the city government launched its free medicines program called “Libreng Gamot Para Sa Mamamayan” program to provide Yellow Card members with access to quality medicines for various illnesses, including maintenance medicines for “lifestyle” diseases such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes, among others. The free medicines are available in eight pharmacies: one in each barangay cluster, and one each in the Makati City Hall and Osmak. Door-to-door delivery of medicines is provided to senior citizens 70 years old and above, bedridden residents, and persons with disability.

In 2006, PhilHealth acknowledged Makati as the first local government unit in the country to attain universal health insurance coverage for its constituents. The city government sponsored the PhilHealth premium contribution of 25,000 indigent residents. In 1994, the Kabisig People’s Movement named the Yellow Card Program “Most Outstanding Kabisig Project in the National Capital Region.” The following year, the Department of Health declared Makati as the First Healthy City Model in the country, citing the success of its “integrated and holistic approach to socialized health care.” In 2002, the program won the Dubai International Award for Best Practices for its outstanding contribution towards improving the living environment of residents.

“We would like to inspire other localities in the country, and even in other parts of the world, to continuously promote people’s health and wellbeing, especially the poor,” Barcelo said.

Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). Medicine Cabinet is a weekly PHAP column that aims to promote awareness on public health and health care-related issues. PHAP and its member companies represent the research-based pharmaceutical and health care industry.