The leadership of the House of Representatives led by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Wednesday recommended for Senate action the Universal Health bill aimed at ensuring all Filipinos are guaranteed equitable access to quality and affordable health care goods and services and protected against financial risk.
The bill, signed by Arroyo last Monday, had been sent back to the Senate and to be transmitted to Malacañang for the signing of President Rodrigo Duterte. Senate President Vicente Sotto earlier signed the bill.
Arroyo said she was extremely proud of the bill because it would mean universal and more efficient health coverage for every Filipino.
“This bill will further strengthen the delivery of health care services to every Filipino and I am honored to be a part of it,” Arroyo said.
During her presidency, she expanded coverage of free medical services to Filipinos as she launched a P3-billion universal health insurance coverage that would provide either free or subsidized hospitalization and other medical assistance to government and private sector employees and indigent families through Executive Order 276.
Towards the end of her presidency, Arroyo was able to increase to 50 million the new beneficiaries of PhilHealth from her initial target of only 5 million.
And from 400,000 indigent families covered by PhilHealth in 2001, 5 million poor families were covered by PhilHealth at the end of her term in 2010.
Under the UHC bill, every Filipino shall be automatically included in the National Health Insurance Program which includes immediate eligibility and access to primary medical, dental, mental and emergency health services, medicines, diagnostics and laboratory as well as preventive, curative and rehabilitative care.
The Department of Health through PhilHealth will implement the program.
Under the bill, PhilHealth members are identified into two groups: the direct contributors or the paying members and indirect contributors who are non-paying members whose membership is fully subsidized from tax collections.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque estimated that around P257 billion in the first year of its implementation will be needed to fund the program. This will be taken from the Sin Tax Reform Law. He is also pushing for two bills that increase the taxes in tobacco and alcohol to fund the program.
The House of Representatives had passed the two bills increasing taxes on alcohol and tobacco. The Senate has yet to pass its own version of the two bills.