Universal Healthcare Bill Enacted Into Law
Finally, easier and equal access to health care to all Filipinos will soon be possible as the Universal Healthcare bill is now a law.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday led a ceremonial signing activity on all the bills he had enacted into law recently and one of those laws is the Universal Health Care Act. This landmark bill aims to expand the coverage of Philhealth to all Filipinos both at home and abroad, whether as indirect or direct contributors.
Under the law, all Filipino citizens are automatically enrolled into the National Health Insurance Program as direct contributors or those who have the capacity to pay premiums, and indirect contributors sponsored by the government such as indigents and senior citizens. The law also mandates Philhealth to cover diagnostic services, consultation fees, and medical tests for free under the program.
The funding requirement of the law is ₱257 billion, ₱217 billion of which is already appropriated by the national budget. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said the funding gap of ₱40 billion would mean not all hospitals or health centers as envisioned under the law would be constructed. The construction of barangay health units in fourth to sixth class municipalities would be prioritized, so patients would not have to visit hospitals for minor ailments.
Additional funds for Philhealth will be sourced from the charity fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, income from the Philippine Gaming Corporation, members’ contributions, the national budget for the Department of Health, government subsidies, and sin tax collections. However, the bill for the additional sin taxes on cigarettes is currently pending in Congress, which might reduce the funding for universal health care.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a conference:
“Pagkakasyahin muna natin until such time na dumating ang pondo … gradual ang implementation pero meron pa namang ano, there are many ways to augment resources,”
[Translation: We will work with available resources until more funds come … the implementation will be gradual.]