Aguilar: On health care and the government

Against the current

WITH the implementation of sin tax, the Department of Health’s capability to provide health services has significantly improved. There is an increase of PhilHealth beneficiaries and health facilities sprout like mushrooms in the hinterlands. More doctors are hired, as well as nurses and midwives. The performance of LGUs (local government units) in providing health services have also been closely monitored through the DOH benchmarking.

But if you look closer, the devil is in the details.

While ideally anyone who has no visible means of income, or whose income is insufficient for family subsistence shall automatically be enrolled and covered under the program for indigents, a significant percent of PhilHealth enrollment for indigents were given to the LGUs and are very limited. When things are left to LGUs, it is expected that disbursement of such limited services will always get politicized specifically the selection of beneficiaries. This explains why majority of our poor population are still not yet covered by PhilHealth and remain deprived of basic health services.

The present situation in a typical middle-class home is that when someone gets sick and hospitalized, the whole family gets chained to debt just to pay for hospital bills. They would have to work triple for the next six months to offset their expenses just about time for another member to get sick again since their food budget gets compromised due to debt servicing. For poorer families which constitute majority of the Filipinos, hospitals are not an option. Most deaths in the hinterlands are caused by diseases that can have easily been countered had they have access to a health facility and medicine.

Health and wellness is a right and not a privilege. As a right, the government is duty-bound to provide for it without discrimination. A father with kidney failure should not have to be a supporter of an incumbent governor, congressman, mayor or barangay chairman for him to be a PhilHealth beneficiary or to have access to a free weekly dialysis in a public hospital. He should not be condemned to death just because he casted his vote to a losing candidate. It is his right to have access to all government services whether he is a registered voter or not. He does not have to promise allegiance to a certain politician just so he can have his dialysis.

The government should be sued for every death caused by its selective health servicing. Perhaps that is the only way for it to start re-engineering its health care starting from revenue collection to changing its budget appropriation to making all public hospitals and health facilities absolutely free (zero billing balance) whether you have PhilHealth or not. There is obviously something wrong with our priority when Public Works and Highways gets three times more than what was allocated on Health.

Health, Education, and Agriculture should have the biggest chunk of our national budget, and disbursement of their programs should be designed in such a way that those with less in life will have more access.


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