A BILL seeking to provide vouchers for the purchase of medicines has been filed before the House of Representatives with the aim of tending to the needs of poor families identified under a community-based monitoring system.

House Bill No. 9797 aims to establish the Comprehensive Medicine Voucher Program under the Department of Health (DoH) to benefit also the informal sector workers and families not covered by the National Health Insurance Program, and other vulnerable groups like indigenous people with no medical insurance or access to health services.

“The proposed measure seeks to incrementally address this long-standing problem,” Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee said in a statement on Thursday.

The Philippine National Formulary, an office under the DoH, must establish an accreditation system of private pharmacies and healthcare providers to ensure that a wide range medicines are available to the public.

“A big portion of the population, particularly the marginalized and vulnerable sectors, still face challenges in accessing essential health services due to financial constraints,” Mr. Lee said in the bill’s explanatory note.

During a House committee hearing last week, lawyer Romulo B. Macalintal said senior citizens are not granted discounts when purchasing vitamins and mineral supplements as it is not included in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 (Republic Act No. 9994).

The DoH must also pay pharmacies for the vouchers in 30 days. Pharmacies also have the option to avail the amount payable to them by the government in their gross income tax compliance if certified by the Health department.

Funds to implement the medicine voucher program will be included in the budget of the DoH, the Official Development Assistance (ODA), the National Government’s share from the income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), as well as the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s (PCSO) mandatory contributions, charity fund, and net of documentary stamp tax payments.

Those found issuing or forging false medicine prescriptions, acting or aiding as a dummy to an unqualified beneficiary, dispensing fake medicines, and refusing to issue medicines amid the presentation of a legitimate voucher will be penalized.

“No Filipino should suffer from a disease and lose one’s life only because they are unable to pay for necessary medical care or cannot afford to buy the needed medicine for their treatment,” Mr. Lee said. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz