P257B needed for first year of uni­ver­sal health care cov­er­age – DOH

Watchmen Daily Journal - - Nation - (Sofia To­macruz, Rap­pler.com)

MANILA – The Depart­ment of Health (DOH) will need about P257 bil­lion the first year it im­ple­ments the uni­ver­sal health care (UHC) once the law is passed, the health sec­re­tary said on Mon­day, Novem­ber 5.

Health Sec­re­tary Fran­cisco Duque al­ready es­ti­mates a fund­ing gap of P164 bil­lion, and points out that higher to­bacco taxes is needed to fund the pro­gram.

“Es­ti­mates show that in the first year of im­ple­men­ta­tion, around P257 bil­lion will be needed to in­tro­duce the re­forms. Tak­ing into ac­count ex­ist­ing bud­get, the fund­ing gap is es­ti­mated to be around P164 bil­lion. Ad­di­tional rev­enues from the pro­posed in­crease in to­bacco taxes are seen as im­por­tant means to lessen and ad­dress pre­cisely the fund­ing gaps,” Duque said in a press con­fer­ence.

In line with the pas­sage of the UHC bill in Congress, Duque had been push­ing for in­creases in to­bacco taxes. He said law­mak­ers and the pub­lic should view the two mea­sures as “im­por­tantly linked” if the govern­ment were to be able to de­liver on its prom­ise of health care for all Filipinos.

The health chief like­wise asked Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte last Oc­to­ber 14, to cer­tify as ur­gent a Se­nate bill seek­ing to raise to­bacco taxes to fund UHC – just as the Pres­i­dent did to help pass the UHC bill.

Mala­cañang, how­ever, is yet to re­spond.

How much will the in­crease be?

The DOH is push­ing to in­crease ex­cise tax on cig­a­rettes to P90 per pack from the cur­rent P32.50. This would re­sult in rev­enues of about P45 to P47 bil­lion.

Other sources of fund­ing for the UHC bill in 2019 would be the fol­low­ing:

● DOH an­nual bud­get P70 bil­lion

● PhilHealth sub­si­dies to in­di­gent fam­i­lies - P70 bil­lion

● Al­lo­ca­tions from the Philip­pine Gam­ing and Amuse­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (PAGCOR) and Philip­pine Char­ity Sweep­stakes Of­fice (PCSO) - P30 to P40 bil­lion

● PhilHealth mem­ber­ship con­tri­bu­tion - P40 bil­lion

● Sin tax pro­ceeds re­main­der of about P37 bil­lion

Fo­cus­ing on the pos­i­tive

Apart from fund­ing UHC, the DOH con­tin­ues to push for rais­ing to­bacco taxes be­cause of its pos­i­tive health im­pact on the pop­u­la­tion.

Duque cited DOH es­ti­mates that if to­bacco taxes were pegged at P90 per pack, “about 1 mil­lion to­bacco-at­trib­ut­able deaths could be averted.”

More ex­pen­sive to­bacco prod­ucts would also re­duce smok­ing preva­lence from 21.6% of the pop­u­la­tion to a tar­get of about 15.7%, which is in line with the DOH’s tar­gets to re­duce non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble or life­style-re­lated dis­eases by 2025.

Health ex­perts ear­lier warned that if to­bacco taxes were not raised in the near fu­ture, the Philip­pines may see an in­crease of about a mil­lion new smok­ers.

In ad­di­tion to this, Duque said that in­creased to­bacco taxes would also re­sult in less num­ber of peo­ple who would suf­fer from ill­nesses re­lated to smok­ing, such as stroke, hy­per­ten­sion, carido-vas­cu­lar dis­eases, and lung dis­eases, among oth­ers.

He added, “The pos­i­tive ef­fects of the sin tax go be­yond rev­enue gen­er­a­tion. With higher prices of to­bacco prod­ucts, peo­ple will be less in­clined to smoke, there­fore less peo­ple will get sick from smok­ing re­lated ill­ness and less ex­penses will be in­curred on ac­count of health care.”

The Se­nate last Oc­to­ber 10 ap­proved the UHC bill, which seeks to give all Filipinos ac­cess to health care cov­er­age and ser­vices. The pas­sage of the bill came over a year af­ter the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed a coun­ter­part mea­sure in Septem­ber 2017.

The mea­sure is still far from be­com­ing law, though, as a bi­cam­eral con­fer­ence com­mit­tee would need to rec­on­cile the dif­fer­ent pro­vi­sions in the two ver­sions of the bill.

(Jire Carreon/Rap­pler)

A ma­jor source of fund­ing for the pro­posed uni­ver­sal health care law will be rev­enue col­lected from the sin tax.

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