Legazpi CITY --- City-Senator Sonny Angara, who will be in Legazpi City tomorrow to spearhead several relief ops in the area, is calling on the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to expand its primary care package to include preventive and promotive health services, such as executive checkup and laboratory test, pending approval of the universal health coverage (UHC) bill.
“This is a first step while the deliberation on the UHC
bill, which seeks to provide every Filipino citizen access to a comprehensive set of health services without financial hardship, is still ongoing,” Angara said.
He is set to join fellow Senators Joel Villanuva, Migz Zubiri, JV Ejercito and Nancy Binay in a relief operations that will be held at the Albay Central School, Bitano Elementary School, Gabawan Elementary School and Bascaran High School.
At present, PhilHealth’s primary care package only includes standard health checkups and medicines for 10 common conditions, including asthma, pneumonia, diabetes mellitus and hypertension.
According to Angara, an executive health checkup and the corresponding laboratory tests “can be costly, enough to eat up much more of one’s earnings.”
“Filipino families still bear the brunt of healthcare in the Philippines,” Angara said, citing a study by the Philippine Statistics Authority showing that household out-of-pocket payments accounted for 54.2 percent or majority of the country’s current expenditure in 2016.
According to a separate study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, a high out-of-pocket spending of 56 percent for healthcare did not improve since 2008.
Angara said this means that even if the prices of healthcare and medicines are reduced to at-cost levels, the poor will still not benefit because the reduced price of services and medicines remains beyond their capacity.
“Hence, the provision of free, and not just cheaper, health services and medicines through social health insurance and other funding sources to support the poor is crucial to achieve improved health outcomes,” he added.
The lawmaker from Aurora province recently filed Senate Bill No. 1673, entitled “An Act of providing for a universal health coverage for Filipinos and appropriating funds therefor.”
The measure seeks to increase PhilHealth coverage to 100 percent of the country’s population, and expand the benefits and services ordinarily available under the current National Health Insurance Program (NHIP).
Under the bill, the NHIP will be strengthened and renamed as the National Health Security Program, wherein all Filipinos will be automatically covered.
The PhilHealth will also be renamed as the Philippine Health Security Corp. to reflect its mandate as national financier and purchaser of individual-based health services.
“We have to make sure that healthcare is accessible to all and no one is left behind. We can only do that if we create a universal healthcare system that will cover all Filipinos, including key populations and other marginalized groups,” Angara said.
In 2010, a Social Weather Stations survey commissioned by the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines found that 87 percent of adult Filipinos expect the government to provide healthcare for all, including those who cannot afford to pay for it.
The same survey showed that 84 percent agree that the government should aim to provide the same quality of healthcare, without charge, to everyone, whether rich or poor.
It also found that 60 percent are satisfied with the government in providing quality health services for all, 25 percent never consulted a doctor or health facility during sickness, and 55 percent have no health insurance.