Hidalgo: Health care for all Filipinos

Citizen Fe

FILIPNOS will now have guaranteed access to affordable and quality health services with the enactment of Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law. This was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 20.

The law ensures that every Filipino, including overseas Filipino workers, are eligible for preventive, pro-motive, curative, rehabilitative, and palatine care upon automatic enrollment to the government's health insurance program. Under the law, the Philippine Health Insurance Company (PhilHealth) will have expanded coverage to include free consultation fees, laboratory tests, and other diagnostic services.

It also aims to improve doctor-to-patient ratio, upgrades hospital bed capacities and equipment, and establish more hospitals in remote areas. On July 12, the Department of Health (DOH) ended the fourth public consultation on the drafting of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law. The DOH was tasked to draft the law's IRR within 180 days after the enactment.

Earlier, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said the public consultations on the drafting of the IRR were "inclusive" -- giving importance to the voices of the public and the different sectors of society. This is to ensure that 106 million Filipinos benefit from the UHC reform the soonest. We need to make sure that first, Filipinos know what to expect. Second, the care providers, managers, and stewards have to have a clear idea how to implement the UHC.

The full implementation of the law would require up to P70 billion a year. Duque said the fund sources for UHC include DOH's annual budget, PhilHealth subsidies to indigent families, allocations from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, PhilHealth membership contributions, and sin taxes on alcolhol and tobacco.

Another law enacted under the Duterte administration is the National Integrated Cancer Control (NICC) Act, which institutionalizes a "national integrated" program to control, cancer. The law aims to provide cancer patients quality health care without financial hardships. This includes establishment of 24/7 cancer centers in various hospitals nationwide and providing free medicines for breast, childhood, and colorectal cancers.


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