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WHO Representative talks about the newly passed Universal Health Care law

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by Karen S. Janiya

The Center for Strategic Planning and Policy Studies (CSPPS) of CPAf sponsored the seminar entitled “Universal Health Care: The Philippine Journey towards Accessing Quality Health Services without Financial Hardship” on April 4, 2019 at CPAf Rooms 303-304. The seminar aimed to disseminate information on the newly passed Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act. Dr. Albert Francis Domingo, a consultant from the Office of the WHO Representative to the Philippines, was the guest speaker.

As summarized in Dr. Domingo’s presentation, the general objectives of the UHC law are to progressively realize universal health care through systemic approach and the clear role delineation of stakeholders, and to ensure equitable access to quality and affordable health care and protection against financial risk.

Also discussed in his presentation are the three dimensions of the UHC law: 1) population coverage, 2) service coverage, and 3) financial coverage. These dimensions mean that under the UHC law, every Filipino will be automatically included in the National Health Insurance Program, will have access to all health services, and will have a reduction in their out-of-pocket payments.

Implementing all of the provisions of the UHC law will require additional funding. The source of funding for the UHC will be the tax collected from the Sin Tax, 50% of the national government share from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), 40% of the charity fund, net of Documentary Stamp Tax payments and mandatory contributions of Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office (PCSO), premium contributions of members, annual appropriations of the DOH, national government subsidy to PhilHealth, and supplemental funding, if necessary. 

For the first year of the implementation of the UHC law, the estimated cost was PhP 270 billion, but initial accounting showed PhP 40 billion is still needed for the initial year. This poses as one of the challenges of the UHC. The Department of Health, together with other legislators, are working on complementary bills to increase the tobacco excise tax so that they can get more funding for the UHC. 

Another challenge faced by the UHC law is the varied perspectives on the major reforms of the law. Since the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the UHC are still being drafted, many interpretations and concerns have surfaced. After the release of the IRR, only then can these concerns and misinterpretations be cleared up. Hence, participation of privately-owned hospitals, local government units, and the citizens themselves in drafting the IRR is important so that their concerns will be reflected in the said document.

This seminar is part of the CSPPS Policy Seminar Series. UPLB and UP Open University officials, faculty, and staff; representatives from different provincial and local government units; and private health care providers in Laguna attended the said event.

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