THE Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) hopes to enroll the remaining 2% of the population in its insurance scheme by the close of the first year of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law in 2020, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

In a statement, Mr. Duque said 100% coverage is expected to be achieved for state-owned PhilHealth’s National Health Insurance Program (NHIP).

“Right now, we are at 98% enrollment. We expect to achieve 100% enrolment by the end of the first year of UHC implementation,” he said.

The UHC Law requires all Filipinos to be members of PhilHealth.

Mr. Duque said he expects no delays in the rollout of the UHC Law, for which only 33 locations have been identified as initial operating areas of the UHC Integration Sites (UIS) Program.

“The UIS Program is not the be-all and end-all of the UHC Program. Though it is a critical step to address fragmentation in the health system, the UIS Program is only one of the many reforms. Let us not confuse or equate UIS with UHC. Non-selection of an area in the UIS for 2020 does not mean that UHC will not be implemented at all in a certain area next year,” he said.

The 33 areas initially identified for UIS are: Valenzuela, Parañaque, Dagupan City, Baguio, Benguet, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Bataan, Tarlac, Batangas, Quezon, Oriental Mindoro, Masbate, Sorsogon, Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, Iloilo, Cebu province, Biliran, Leyte, Samar, Zamboanga del Norte, Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Sarangani, South Cotobato, Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, and Maguindanao.

Last week, PhilHealth CEO Ricardo Morales estimated that it could take three to six years to fully implement the UHC Law, citing funding and manpower issues. Mr. Duque affirmed this and added that a gradual implementation will be more cost-effective and realistic as opposed to forcing the launch without being fully ready.

“We Have to remember that the transitory provisions of the UHC Act are clear when they provide for a six-year transition period for the integration of local provider networks into provincial and city health systems. We cannot demand the complete integration of over 100 provincial and city health systems overnight when the law clearly provides for a realistic six-year period to accomplish this,” Mr. Duque said. — Gillian M. Cortez