The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo R. Duterte, signed the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act into law which will automatically enroll all Filipinos under the government’s health insurance program. Concerned agencies will draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the law. A reconciled version of the law was approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives in November 2018.
The UHC’s objective is to ensure that all Filipinos receive a full range of high quality health care services – from preventive to promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative – at affordable cost. The UHC aims to shift the health system’s current treatment-oriented approach towards a more balanced approach emphasizing prevention and health promotion.
Among the significant reforms that will be implemented over time include: automatic enrollment of all Filipinos to PhilHealth; expanding PhilHealth coverage to include free Medical consultations and laboratory tests; designating PhilHealth as the national purchaser for health goods and services for individuals, such as medicines; improvement of health facilities especially in underserved areas; responding to the gap in health workers throughout the country; strategic engagement of the private sector; and creating and expanding new functions in DOH to improve the delivery of health services.
To ensure the implementation of this comprehensive and long-term reform, the Department of Health is also actively working for higher excise taxes on both tobacco and alcohol, and seeks the support of all legislators who made UHC possible to also advocate for and support the passage of these twin health reforms of smart taxes for health. PhilHealth expects to receive PHP 18 billion (USD 350 million) through the General Appropriations Act and PHP 217 billion (USD 4.2 billion) from premium collections, in addition to 50% of the government receipts funds from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and 40% of the charity fund from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. This leaves a shortfall of PHP 22 billion (USD 425 million) for implementation during the first year, which is expected to be met by these higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol.
(Source: Department of Health, Philippines; PhilStar)