The Senate on Wednesday passed on third and final reading the landmark Universal Healthcare bill which seeks to guarantee equal access to quality and affordable health services for all Filipinos.
Under Senate Bill 1896, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, all Filipino citizens will automatically be enrolled into the National Health Insurance Program (PhilHealth) whether as direct contributor (those who have the capacity to pay premiums) or indirect contributor (those sponsored by the government like the indigents, senior citizens, among others).
Ejercito said the passage of the bill into law will also expand the PhilHealth coverage to include free consultation fees, laboratory tests and other diagnostic services.
Under the bill, Filipino residents can avail of primary health care services even without a PhilHealth identification card.
Those not enrolled in the PhilHealth once the measure becomes a law can still avail the health care services since the premium subsidy will be gradually adjusted and included in the General Appropriations Act.
“This bill will ensure that financial issues will no longer be a burden to our countrymen when it comes to healthcare,” Ejercito said in his sponsorship speech.
Citing records from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Ejercito said that Filipinos spent around P6,345 for their health needs in 2016 or 8.7 percent higher from P5,840 in 2015.
He said majority of Filipinos consulted a doctor only when their illnesses were already at their worst because of the lack of government support in health care.
In 2013, the mandatory coverage of indigent patients and other sponsored members of the Department of Social Welfare and Development has increased PhilHealth coverage up to 92 percent of the population or roughly 93.5 million Filipinos.
The bill also calls for the improvement of doctor-to-patient ratio, upgrading of hospital bed capacities and equipment as well as establishment of hospitals in remote areas.
The Department of Health has pegged doctor-to-patient ratio at 1 is to 33,000 while bed to population ratio was pegged at 1 is to 1,121. In Metro Manila, the bed to population ratio is 1 is to 591 while bed to population ratio in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao is 1 is to 4,200.
Under the bill, all graduates of health-related courses from state universities and colleges or government-funded scholarship programs will be required to serve for at least three years in the public sector.