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HomeFront PageBreaking NewsUHC program to benefit 288k IPs in Agusan Sur

UHC program to benefit 288k IPs in Agusan Sur

By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur — The Universal Health Care (UHC) program by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is set to benefit 39 percent, or 288,353, of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in this landlocked province since its implementation on January 1 of this year.

The UHC beneficiaries, hailing from the Manobo, Higaonon, Banwaon, and Tala-andigs tribes, reside in Geographically Isolated Disadvantaged and Conflict-Affected Areas (GIDCA) across the five river towns of Agusan del Sur, as outlined in a presentation by Governor Santiago Cane, Jr. during the Poverty Alleviation Program in October of the previous year.

Rommel Bucayon, the officer-in-charge of the Local Health Insurance Office in this town, explained that IP beneficiaries contribute indirectly to the National Health Insurance Program, with their premiums subsidized by the national government.

Indirect contributors encompass indigent families listed under the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Listahan program, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) members, senior citizens, and Sangguniang Kabataan officials nationwide.

Republic Act 11223, also known as the Universal Health Care Act, enacted on February 20, 2019, by former President Rodrigo Duterte, stipulates in Section 5 that every Filipino is automatically included in the National Health Insurance Program. The Implementing Rules and Regulations, signed on October 10, 2019, further emphasize this inclusion.

UHC has a significant impact on the healthcare needs of the impoverished residents, particularly given that the province remains one of the 10 poorest in the country and is the foremost in the Caraga Region, with 41 percent of its 739,367 population living below the poverty line.

PhilHealth has facilitated UHC registration for IPs, simplifying the process as long as they comprehend the benefits in the Visayan vernacular of being a PhilHealth member.

In the remote mountain village of Binicalan in San Luis town, where many residents lack birth certificates, Bucayon said that PhilHealth field workers will bring Philhealth Membership Registration Form for the non-member residents to fill up.

Even former New People’s Army rebels who surrendered to the government, only need to secure police clearance to become registered PhilHealth members. The provincial government of Agusan del Sur has assisted around 101 former rebels in becoming PhilHealth members.

Local government officials used to submit the list of constituents to be PhilHealth members, but politicization prompted the government health insurance provider to task the Department of Social Welfare and Development with this responsibility.

Bucayon noted that the interior towns of La Paz and San Luis have faced challenges in enlisting residents in remote areas for the UHC program.

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