P166.5B allocated for universal health care program in 2020

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P166.5B-for-universal-health-care-program
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

The universal health care (UHC) program will get a total of P166.5 billion for its first year of implementation in 2020. 

According to the budget document submitted by the Palace to the House of Representatives, P67.4 billion of the said amount set aside for the government subsidy to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to provide millions of Filipinos free health insurance coverage.

Of the said amount, P9.5 billion will be allocated for the distribution of healthcare personnel to different areas while some P9.4 billion will go to poor patients who need medical assistance, and the other P5.9 billion will be allotted for the health facilities. 

Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan proposed that the P1.16 billion returned by Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi to the government be transferred to the program in order to increase the UHC funds. 

“We should be able to use the refund to support expanded health services to benefit more of our people under the program,” she said.

According to Tan, the Sanofi refund should be allocated while the proposed P4.1 trillion national budget for 2020 is still awaiting action in the House. 

“Including it in the funding for UHC will reduce the estimated P62-billion budgetary shortfall for the program on the first year of its implementation in 2020,” Tan said.

Meanwhile, appropriations committee chairman and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, said that he will study Tan’s proposal.

On the other hand, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III informed last week the appropriations committee that the Sanofi refund, which was from the unused Dengvaxia vaccines, is in the care of the national treasury. 

P1.16 billion was a portion of the P3 billion Dengvaxia procurement of the Department of Health (DOH) during the time of current Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, former health secretary, who is faced with charges concerning the vaccine purchase. 

Other than that, Tan also encouraged the appropriations committee to provide funds for cancer patients since no such money was appropriated in the 2020 DOH budget though there was a mandate signed recently. 

UHC implementation should be gradual

On a different note, Duque assured on Monday that the implementation of UHC next year will not be delayed although PhiHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales said that the government may take three more years to completely implement the program considering the insufficient funds and personnel. 

According to Morales, UHC is ambitious and challenging; however, the administration still working out to materialize the program. 

In addition, he cited countries, including Taiwan and those in Europe, that took the implementation of such program gradually.

“It was not a grand opening where you just opened the curtain and everything was there already. They do it in several years until it became 100 percent,” he said.

“It will be a gradual, soft rollout. For full implementation, candidly it will take three years,” Morales added.

UHC Implementation Sites

On the other hand, Duque mentioned that including only 33 cities and provinces as UHC Implementation Sites next year would not mean that the program will only be limited to those areas and not at all in other places in 2020. 

“Though it is a critical step to address fragmentation in the health system, the UIS Program is only one of the many reforms. Let us not confuse or equate UIS with UHC,” he clarified.

The UHC program will cover every geographical area of the country which will be represented under the UIS 2020. There will be 13 implementation sites in Luzon, 10 in Mindanao, eight in Visayas, and two in the National Capital Region. 

The health department is expecting the completion of the mandatory enrollment of all Filipinos in the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) of PhilHealth by 2020. 

“Right now, we are at 98 percent enrollment. We expect to achieve 100 percent enrollment by the end of the first year of UHC implementation,” Duque said.

Once the enrollment is 100% complete, the individual-based medical services which PhilHealth reimburses will be accessible to every Filipino at all PhilHealth-accredited healthcare facilities nationwide.

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