The President recently signed the Universal Healthcare Act, a measure that would provide health care coverage for all Filipinos. Should we care about it? Of course!
Health care costs in the Philippines are getting more expensive. In fact, our country has the highest medical inflation rate in Asia at 13.1% in 2018, based on a Mercer Marsh Benefits survey. This is twice as high as the country's consumer inflation rate at 6.7% (as of September 2018).
Also, the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that Filipino households paid out-of-pocket 54.2% of the country's total health expenditure from 2014 to 2016. The household out-of-pocket spending is higher than government healthcare financing schemes (34.2%).
The Philippines' dismal state of public health care system makes measures like the Universal Healthcare Act both necessary and urgent.
What is Universal Healthcare Act?
The Universal Healthcare Act (Senate Bill 1896) is a law to provide all Filipinos with access to affordable, quality, and comprehensive health services. Through this, the government will implement several reforms in the Philippine health care system.
How Will the Universal Healthcare Act Benefit Filipinos?
1. Automatic Health Insurance for All Filipinos
Under the Universal Healthcare Act, all Filipino citizens will be automatically enrolled in PhilHealth and therefore, will enjoy access to primary health services. This means you can avail of health care benefits even without a PhilHealth ID card.
2. Expanded PhilHealth Coverage
The Universal Healthcare Act will add preventive health care services to existing PhilHealth benefits, such as free consultation fees, laboratory tests, and other diagnostic procedures.
Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the law will change the country's present health care system from being "used to taking care of the sick to one that is used to keeping people healthy.”
3. Simplified PhilHealth Membership
Presently, PhilHealth has multiple membership categories. If you're shifting from one category to another, like from employed to self-employed or OFW, you'll have to update your member record to continue your PhilHealth coverage.
However, that will change now that the Universal Healthcare Act is a law. The member category in PhilHealth is divided into just two categories:
- Direct contributors - These include employees, self-employed professionals, and OFWs who can pay PhilHealth contributions. The bill states that they will still be entitled to PhilHealth benefits even when they fail to pay.
- Indirect contributors - These include senior citizens, indigents, and other members whose PhilHealth contributions will be subsidized by the government. They'll continue to enjoy the No Balance Billing when admitted to any ward in public hospitals in the Philippines.
In case you're wondering, the funding for the indirect contributors' PhilHealth contribution subsidy will come from the government's annual budget and sin taxes from cigarettes.
4. Better Health Care Access and Quality in the Philippines
According to DOH data, there are 33,000 patients per doctor and 1,121 patients per hospital bed in the Philippines. Because of this, the Universal Healthcare Act will seek to improve the doctor-to-patient ratio and upgrade hospital bed capacities and equipment.
To achieve those goals, the bill proposes the building of hospitals in remote places. It also requires all graduates of health-related courses from state universities and colleges or government-funded scholarship programs to serve for three years in the public sector. According to Duque, the government will form Service Delivery Networks to provide primary health care.
What do you think of the Universal Healthcare Act? Any other reforms in the public health care system you'd like to see? Share your thoughts below!