TWO groups have called on presidential candidates to reveal their health agenda while expressing concern over the worsening condition of health care in the Philippines.

In a recent media briefing in Quezon City, Dr. Junice Melgar, co-founder and executive director executive director of women's health body Likhaan said health care has been in the hands of private entities whose bills are higher compared to state-run hospitals.

Individuals and families shelled out almost half of health care expenditures in 2005 as social insurance covered a measly 11.1 percent of the total health bill while government funds accounted for 28.7 percent, data from the National Statistical Coordination Board showed.

At this rate, Melgar said, the financial burden on families remains heavy, leaving access to health care highly inequitable.

In a separate interview, the Health Alliance for Democracy (Head), a national organization of health professionals, workers, and students, the issue of health and health care in general has never been a government priority since the time of former president Ferdinand Marcos.

“Health has always been regarded as something that can be conveniently used as a popular issue for elections or as a ‘deodorizer’ whenever government needs to show the people that it is doing something,” Dr. Gene Nisperos, Head vice chairperson said.

The national budget for 2010 is P1.541 trillion and the budget allocation for health is P29.28 billion for a 1.9 percent share. Debt servicing took up a fifth or P340.8 billion.

The health budget is also way below the five percent of GDP recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for developing countries like the Philippines. Moreover, the share had remained practically unchanged during the eight-year period, still hanging at near zero levels. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)