Great, what’s next?
WE’VE been waiting and, finally, President Rodrigo Duterte had signed universal health care (UHC) into law. Every Filipino is now entitled to free medical care—from prevention to treatment to rehabilitation—under the National Health Security program. On its first year of implementation, the law gets a budget of P257 billion. Under the 2019 budget, only around P217 billion was pegged for the program. The P40-billion gap, government said, will be shouldered by raising taxes for tobacco products, although Congress is still drafting a final version of the bill. The other sources of funds will be the 50 percent share the National Government gets from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., 40 percent from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s Charity Fund, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s premium contributions, and the Health department’s annual appropriations. The government wants a gradual implementation of the law, while it seeks other means to fund it. Under the law, the classification of beneficiaries had been simplified. One may be an indirect contributor or government-sponsored patients, such as indigents, senior citizens and persons with disabilities; or a direct contributor, those who have the capacity to pay their insurance premiums. With so large a budget for UHC, government gains better position in negotiating for lower pricing for medicines and gain leverage in the medical market. Government becomes the biggest client in the health care industry. Sectors who are against UHC see something unjust in the equation. In the US, only 5 percent of the population makes use of about 50 percent of the country’s health care cost in a year. The healthiest 50 percent of the population consumes only around three percent of the universal health care budget. The Philippines is a different story. The country’s poverty incidence in 2015 was 26.3 percent, per Philippine Statistics Authority census. The top leading causes of mortality are heart and cardiovascular diseases, tuberculosis, respiratory illnesses, diabetes mellitus, accidents, the Department of Health (DOH) reported. With the new law, the DOH will continue its population-based health care programs, while the Philhealth zeroes in on individual-based health care./sunstar Cebu