Poe seeks tax incentives for frontline, pro-bono doctors

Sen. Grace Poe is seeking the passage of a bill that seeks to grant tax incentives for doctors who brave the frontlines -- with or without a pandemic -- and give their services for free.

Senator Grace Poe
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Poe said these doctors who provide pro-bono healthcare services at their direst deserve recognition and incentives.

“A number of doctors have taken it upon themselves to volunteer and render free health services to our people who cannot afford to seek medical attention,” Poe said as she pushed for Senate Bill No. 1715 or the proposed Physician Pro Bono Care Act.

“The tax incentive is a way of giving back for their selflessness, commitment and expertise,” Poe stressed.

Under the bill, physicians rendering free services to indigent patients shall be entitled to a tax credit to be deducted from their gross income.

Poe said she believes that while a favorable tax incentive would result in less tax revenue, generating more free physicians' services could lead to long-term savings for the government’s health insurance program and offset potential revenue losses.

She added  the measure mandates the Department of Health (DoH) and the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) to evaluate the pro bono services rendered by the physician, considering the number of hours and the nature of treatment involved.

At the same time, the bill tasks the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), in consultation with the DoH and the PMA, to create the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the proposed law.

Poe said it is important to sustain the constitutional right of Filipinos to have access to health services and for the government to endeavor to provide free medical care to the poor.

In 2019, the senator pointed out the Philippines still has a lamentable doctor-to-patient ratio of 1:33,000 – far from the 1:6,600 global averages. Worse, she said six out of 10 Filipinos die without seeing a doctor.

She further said the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the country's healthcare system, highlighted the importance of having adequate number of doctors in protecting and advancing public health and also widened the gap to quality healthcare access among the poor and the marginalized.

“Truthful to their oath, doctors reduce or even forgo their fees based on patients' circumstances. But we recognize that they also have a need to sustain their profession and that’s where tax incentives could be most helpful,” the lawmaker said.

“If doctors could write off their pro bono work on their taxes, we would see more charity care. This is a win-win situation for patients and doctors,” she stressed.