By Mario B. Casayuran
A joint congressional oversight committee is continuously monitoring the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act to ensure the prudent use of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) funds and guarantee that every Filipino family gets appropriate, affordable, and quality health services while being protected from financial burden because of sickness.
Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘’Bong’’ Go, co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on UHC, issued the statement at the start of the oversight committee’s public hearing on the Health Care program.
Go said that according to the World Health Organization, Universal Health Coverage means that “all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. It includes the full spectrum of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.”
Guided by this principle, according to Go, Republic Act (RA) 11223, or the Universal Health Care Act, was passed into law on February 20, 2019. The law not only seeks to improve access to health care but also aims to fix our health system in the Philippines.
Under the law, every Filipino shall be automatically included in the National Health Insurance Program, either as a direct or indirect contributor.
‘’This is to protect people from the financial risk of paying for health services out of their own pockets and reduce the risk that people will be pushed into poverty. We want to eliminate the idea of healthcare as an entitlement and as a privilege of the few who can afford to pay,’’ Go explained.
‘’For universal health care to be sustainable, we need to secure the necessary funding that will keep the program in good running shape. While we have to make sure that the funds are allocated properly, we also have to take into consideration that the world is in a crisis,’’ he added.
‘’Most people, especially individually paying members like our OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers), cannot afford to pay the premium at this time. Although our migrant workers or OFWs are classified as direct contributors under the law, the government has decided to make contributions voluntary for them at this time. Dahil nga sa ating sitwasyon ngayon, minabuti muna ni Pangulong Duterte na gawing boluntaryo ang kontribusyon ng ating mga OFWs,’’ he said. (Because of the current health condition, President Duterte made contributions by OFW voluntary.)
Mag-focus muna tayo ngayon kung paano matulungan ang mga kababayan nating nangangailangan dahil sa COVID-19 crisis. Sa panahon ngayon, kailangan nating isaalang-alang muna ang pangangailangan nila bago natin palaguin ang pondo para sa Universal Health Care Law,’’ he added. (We must first focus our attention on our countrymen who need help instead of increasing the funds for the Health Care Law.)
‘’Lalo na ngayon na nasa health emergency ang bansa at nawawalan ng kakayahan ang mga Pilipinong magbigay ng dagdag na kontribusyon dahil sa krisis. Sabi nga nila, ‘in this time of crisis, every single peso counts’,’’ he said. (It is during this current health emergency that Filipinos have difficulty in contributing more.)
‘’We are thus here today to study the need to amend the law in consideration of the concerns raised by some sectors,’’ Go said to his fellow legislators who attended the public hearing.
Go also reminded PhilHealth to ensure that the funds entrusted to PhilHealth are safely guarded and free from dubious schemes and corruption.