Better health system expected, as DOH signs IRR of Universal Health Care law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 10) – Now that it has a written policy, many are wondering whether the Philippines’ health care system will be better next year.

The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday has signed the implementing rules and regulations of the Universal Health Care Act, which aims to deliver quality, accessible and affordable health services to all Filipinos. The landmark piece of legislation was signed into law in February of this year.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the issuance of the Universal Health Care law’s implementing rules and regulations is a ‘point of no return.’

“All our discussions on health policies... will be put to the test,” Duque added.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, vice chairperson of the Senate committee on health and demography and one of the authors of the UHC Act, vowed to provide sufficient funds for the continuous implementation of the health reforms.

Makakaasa po kayo na ating titiyakin na taon taon may sapat na pondo para sa UHC system. Babantayan ng implementasyon ng batas through the mandated performance and evaluation mechanisms para masiguro na nagtatranslate sa aktwal na pagbabago, na nararamdaman ng mga Pilipino ang mga reporma ng UHC law.”

[Translation: You can expect that we will make sure that the UHC system will have enough funds every year. We are going to monitor the implementation of the law through the mandated performance and evaluation mechanisms to ascertain that it will translate to an actual change, that Filipinos will feel the reforms of the UHC.]

The new health care system would assign every Filipino to a primary care provider or a health worker who shall be his or her first point of contact.

Primary care providers will deliver free essential health services and will guide patients through the different health care facilities, the DOH said in a statement.

The new system will also ensure that all Filipinos are enrolled in Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) in which “all funds intended for medical services are pooled into.” Duque said that 98 percent of the Filipinos are already members of the PhilHealth’s National Health Insurance Program.

It would also simplify the PhilHealth membership into two categories: direct contributory members, for taxpayers, and non-contributory members, for those who are not formally employed.

“They [Filipinos] shall be eligible to No Balance Billing once admitted to basic or ward accommodations in hospitals,” the DOH said.

No Balance Billing policy allows the vulnerable sectors to get free medical services while confined in public hospitals.

The Senate Committee on Health and Demography headed by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go approved the proposed P160 billion national budget of the Health department for 2020.

UHC program will require about P257 billion for the first year of implementation.