Transparency in health budget spending sought

Published March 10, 2021, 5:00 AM

by MB Business

A group of health advocates urged the government  to be transparent and efficient in spending the  P205.8 billion health budget during the first-year implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.

In a statement, the UHC Watch called on civil society to be vigilant and actively push the progressive implementation of the programs under the UHC law for the maximum benefit of all Filipinos.

According to the 2021 general appropriations act, P134.5 Billion is allocated to the Department of

Health for General Administration and Support (P8.09 billion); support to Operations (P1.91); Promotive and Preventive Healthcare (P56.94 billion); Curative and rehabilitative healthcare (P49.31 billion); Regulation (P1.08 billion); and Social health protection (P17.13 billion).

Philhealth has an allocation of P71.35 billion for the health insurance premiums of indirect contributors composed of the indigents under the national household targeting system for poverty reduction as identified by DSWD (4P’s), senior citizens, unemployed person with disability, and financially incapable point of service patients as identified by the DOH. 

In a recent online forum organized by the Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, UHC Watch also presented a manifesto before the DOH asserting the rights of Filipinos to quality health services and the fast and efficient implementation of UHC programs.

UHC Watch is a coalition of civil society groups CitizenWatch Philippines, Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations, Health Justice, and Bantay Konsyumer, Kalsada, Kuryente (BK3).

Dr. Mario C. Villaverde, DOH Undersecretary for Health Policy and Systems Development, said in the same forum that the Universal Health Care Act is supposed to address the fragmentation issues in service delivery through the integration of local health systems.

“To this end, DOH issued the policy on integration of local health systems into province-wide and city-wide health systems,” he said.

Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, a former DOH Secretary and board member of Health Justice Philippines, said that although the Philippines has shown significant improvements, our health care system is still dealing with inequities and new challenges that threaten the health of its population while Filipinos continue to suffer a heavy financial burden from health spending. 

The manifesto called on the government to prioritize the implementation of the UHC Law, together with other health measures and allocate resources for their operationalization based on sound data and evidence-based information.

It also urged key stakeholders—patients, health professionals, patient organizations, local communities, the healthcare industry, and the government–to proactively collaborate in the decision-making process so that this whole-of-society approach would enable the country’s health systems to achieve better health outcomes with a greater sense of accountability in healthcare delivery.

BK3 Convenor Prof. Louie Montemar said cost is the number one concern and though Maximum Retail Price of medicines is being implemented to help lighten the out-of-pocket purchase of medicines, other ways of expanding access to the most consumers who cannot even afford to buy medicines such as pooled procurement should be prioritized.

Ma. Fatima Garcia-Lorenzo, president of the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO), said we need to go beyond knee-jerk responses and activate well established systems to cope with the increased demand for health service. We also see the need to strengthen social entitlements and safety nets as part of a universal service that become accessible to the most vulnerable.

Former Senator JV Ejercito, a principal author of the UHC law, reminded the government to fulfill its mandate to deliver the programs of these laws.  “The success of our health programs will foster a productive workforce that will help push the country economic momentum and recovery,” he said.