ADB approves $600-M loan for PH health care program

Published November 19, 2021, 4:32 PM

by Chino S. Leyco

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved the Philippines’ fresh loan that aims to support the government’s universal health care (UHC) program.

In a statement, the Manila-based multilateral institution said it approved a $600 million policy-based loan to the Philippines to provide quality and equitable health services for all Filipinos.

“The Build Universal Health Care Program seeks to support the government’s initiatives to improve the financing and delivery of health services and implement measures to monitor the performance of health service providers,” ADB said.

The Philippines enacted the UHC Act in February 2019 to ensure Filipinos have equitable access to quality health services and avoid high out-of-pocket health expenses. It includes a series of reforms planned over several years.

Asia Ayako Inagaki, ADB director said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted existing constraints in the country’s health care service delivery, which the government sought to address in its pandemic health response.

“This program seeks to boost the government’s ability to achieve its UHC goals and provide timely and equitable health care services, especially for the poor and marginalized across the country,” Inagaki said.

Under the UHC law, all Filipinos are automatically included in the National Health Insurance Program, as part of its UHC reform. It also mobilized revenues from higher taxes on sin products to help finance UHC and expand primary care services.

“This new ADB program will help the government boost financing for UHC, expand the supply of health facilities and workers, enable the integration of health care providers, and enhance health system efficiency,” Eduardo Banzon, ADB principal health specialist said.

ADB said the program will expand the use of digital tools for the sector and ensure sharing of data among health information systems and databases.

Moreover, it will bolster the implementation capacity of the Department of Health and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., and strengthen collaboration with other government agencies, local government units (LGUs), and the private sector.

“It will support LGUs’ efforts to expand health promotion and help improve access to health care workers and health care facilities, particularly in underserved LGUs,” the bank said.

In addition to the loan, ADB will administer a $2 million technical assistance grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction to support the implementation of health policy reforms in LGUs.

ADB will provide technical advice as the government prepares to implement the next set of UHC-related reforms by 2023.

overnment prepares to implement the next set of UHC-related reforms by 2023.