Duque: More time needed for implementing rules on Universal Health Care 

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — The Universal Health Care law, applauded by advocates as a major reform that will ease Filipinos' financial burden, is expected to take effect next year.

But the Department of Health (DOH) faces difficulty in coming up with the law's implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

"It looks like many gray areas are surfacing from the provisions of the law. We would need more time to put clarity to these rather vague if not fuzzy provisions of the law," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said at a joint press conference with the  Department of Finance (DOF) Friday.

Duque cited as an example the local health care system under the law, which would be operated by the provincial local government unit (LGU).

"Paano yung mga health workers sa municipal LGUs," Duque asked.

[Translation: What will happen to the health workers who work at a municipal level?]

The Health Secretary said that they would hold public consultations on the draft IRR, which they expect to pass by the end of May.

The Universal Health Care law would expand the government's health insurance program to cover free diagnostic services, consultation fees and medical tests. Its coverage would also expand to Filipinos both home and abroad.

It automatically enrolls all Filipinos in the National Health Insurance Program and prescribes accompanying reforms in the health system.

The World Health Organization has lauded the new law, noting that 6.4 million Filipinos today are paying more than 10 percent of their income on health care, a level that is considered potentially catastrophic. It said expenses for the care of one person with a major or long-term illness can push entire families into a cycle of poverty which can be difficult to escape.

Funds for the implementation of the bill would be sourced from the charity fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, income from the Philippine Gaming Corporation, members' contributions, the national budget for the Department of Health, government subsidies, and sin tax collections.

However, the bill to increase the sin taxes on cigarettes and alcohol are still pending in Congress, with only three weeks left until the current legislative session ends.