Senate passes Universal Health Care Bill

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FILE PHOTO. The Senate passed on third and final reading a bill that seeks to provide adequate healthcare services to Filipinos.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 10) — Soon, all Filipinos will have access to health services.

The Senate on Wednesday passed on third and final reading a bill that seeks to provide adequate healthcare services to Filipinos. All senators voted for the approval of Senate Bill 1986 or the "Universal Health Care Bill."

This comes immediately after President Rodrigo Duterte's call for the proposed measure's passage at the Senate.

Once enacted, all Filipinos will be given universal health care coverage and benefits under the National Health Security Program, which replaces the National Health Insurance Program or Philhealth.

Under the proposed measure, contributors--or income earners--will have to pay for their premiums while the government will shoulder the contributions of non-contributors. Funds for the subsidy will be included in the annual General Appropriations Act. Health Secretary Francisco Duque also previously said that sin taxes from cigarettes will also be a major source of funding for the policy.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who authored the bill when he was Kabayan partylist representative, thanked the Senate for passing what he considers to be a "groundbreaking" law.

"I consider this measure groundbreaking because beneficiaries will be entitled to health coverage simply by virtue of their citizenship as Filipinos," he said in a statement.

Roque said the President's move to certify the bill as urgent shows the administration's "unrelenting commitment to provide the marginalized and disadvantaged with sufficient and better health care services."

The House of Representative had previously passed a version of the bill (House Bill No 5784) in September 2017.