Philippines President Signs Universal Health Care Law

The Philippines’ Universal Health Care Act provides free medical consultations and laboratory tests, as well as a range of affordable health services.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law that seeks to provide health care coverage for all Filipinos under a government health insurance programme.

The Philippines’ Universal Health Care Act provides free medical consultations and laboratory tests, as well as a range of affordable health services including preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative, said the government.

“By automatically [enrolling] our citizens into the National Health Insurance Program and expanding PhilHealth coverage to include free medical consultations and laboratory tests, the Universal Healthcare Law that I signed today will guarantee equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare services for all Filipinos,” Duterte was quoted saying in a speech by the Philippine News Agency.

Philippines’ Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement today that the signing of the universal health care law marked “a historic day for health in the Philippines.”

“We call on the private sector to help us in accelerating our efforts in providing quality health services for all Filipinos. We call on our lawmakers to invest in the health of all Filipinos by appropriating the right budget, and supporting other significant pieces of legislative health reform such as further increases in sin taxes.

“We call on the strong support of all health workers and allies in the Philippines to ensure that we are united in our commitment to realizing universal health care,” he added.

Rappler reported that the law signed by the Philippine president yesterday intended to automatically enroll every Filipino in the country’s national health insurance programme.

Direct members in the programme would pay health premiums, while indirect members were those sponsored by the government like senior citizens and the poor.

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will be handling the programme, under which patients will be registered with a primary health provider of their choice for outpatient care, laboratory tests, and medicine, Rappler reported.

Direct members would be eligible for more benefits as premiums rise. Membership rates are set to gradually increase by half a percentage point annually.

The Philippine Department of Health reportedly said P257 billion (US$4.9 billion) was needed to implement the law in its first year, according to Rappler.

The programme would get funding from the Department of Health’s annual budget, sin tax revenue, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, PhilHealth members’ contributions, and government subsidies to PhilHealth.

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