Health for all Filipinos: Universal Healthcare Law

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

July 21, 2019, 3:16 pm

MANILA -- All Filipinos are now guaranteed equitable access to affordable and quality health services with the enactment of Republic Act 11223 or the Universal Health Care Law.

Signed on February 20 by President Rodrigo Duterte, the law ensures that every Filipino, including overseas Filipino workers, are eligible for preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative 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 established 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 its 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 society sectors.

“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, and second, the implementers (health care providers, managers, and stewards) have a clear idea of how to implement this task,” Duque said.

The full implementation of the law would require up to PHP270 billion a year.

Duque said the fund sources for UHC include DOH’s annual budget, PhilHealth subsidies to indigent families, allocations from the Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corporation and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, PhilHealth membership contributions and sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco.

Cancer control

Another law enacted under the Duterte administration is the National Integrated Cancer Control (NICC) Act which institutionalizes a "national integrated" program to control cancer.

Signed by Duterte on February 14, the law aims to provide cancer patients quality health care without financial hardships.

With the NICC Act, the DOH has intensified the Philippine Cancer National Control program, which includes the establishment of 24/7 cancer centers in various DOH hospitals nationwide and continued provision of free medicines for breast, childhood and colorectal cancers.

Under the new law, the DOH is tasked to provide early and sufficient access to cancer medicines and "ensure highest possible chance of survival among people with cancer".

The law also created the cancer assistance fund, which will support the cancer medicine and assistance treatment program and mandated the PhilHealth to expand benefit packages for all types and stages of cancer. (PNA)