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Why we need proper implementation of the Universal Health Care Law
A basic principle: Healthy Filipinos mean Wealthy Filipinos

By: Charina G. Ocampo

Senior Consultant, Apricus Public Relations and Communication Services

Herophilus, the father of anatomy, so wisely said that “when HEALTH is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless and intelligence cannot be applied.”

Having good health is indeed a basic need, along with nutritious food and safe shelter. In fact, we can even say that good health is a by-product of the latter two. Having no access to nutritious food and clean and safe environments would definitely lead to an unhealthy populace. However, good health requires more than having nutritious food and a safe home.  Diet, genes, habits, level of stress and the kind of work that people do, among others, are variables of good health.

These factors have to be taken into account because without good health we can well say goodbye to attaining food security and a safe environment for how can an unhealthy populace even strive towards a better, stronger, peaceful and a hunger-free country if it is unhealthy to begin with?

Perhaps the best recognition of this by the State itself is embodied in Section 15, Article II of the Philippine Constitution which states that, “the State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”

It is in pursuant of this policy that Congress passed Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 20, 2019 and became effective 15 days thereafter. The UHC Law seeks “to progressively realize universal health care in the country through a systematic approach and clear delineation of roles of key agencies and stakeholders towards better performance in the health system.”

On its website, the Department of Health, said that to attain universal health care, “three strategic thrusts are to be pursued, namely: 1) Financial risk protection through expansion in enrollment and benefit delivery of the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP); 2) Improved access to quality hospitals and health care facilities; and 3) Attainment of health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”

The UHC Law provides for automatic entitlement of all citizens to PhilHealth benefits, including comprehensive outpatient services. Under the said law, PhilHealth will have the responsibility to purchase all individual-based services, including supplies, medicines, and commodities, as well as maintenance and operating expense of health facilities.

The UHC Law also aims to strengthen existing health sector processes by having primary care close to families and communities supported by hospitals that are contracted as part of a network. Although not all health services are for free, we are assured that the prices of health goods and services will be predictable and affordable.

Meantime, further benefits will be designed by DOH and Philhealth depending on the available budget, additional revenue from tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverage taxes and the value-based decisions of healthy technology assessment.

The UHC Law is seen as a big leap towards reforming the country’s health care systems. However, it’s budget will also be sourced from sin tax collections and partly from income generated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and PCSO.  

Hopefully, enough funds will be generated to effectively provide immediate access to health services, including preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care, as well as out-patient drugs.

Finally, let me underscore the potential contribution of the private sector. Hopefully, the private sector will play a clear role because they can immensely contribute to the successful implementation of the UHC Law. As proven many times over, engaging the private sector will further benefit the Filipino citizenry because there is an opportunity to maximize technical capabilities and harness the efforts of all health services, both public and private, to achieve universal health coverage specially the provision of primary health care. I am an advocate of modern agriculture which comes hand-in-hand with the promotion and pursuit of a healthy populace. May all of us -whether in the public or the private sector- strive for a healthier Philippines.

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