Philhealth: ‘Gradual’ implementation of Universal Health Care starts Jan. 1, 2020

Universal Health Care Law

Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) is ready to start the gradual implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law on January 1, 2020.

In a press briefing at Luxent Hotel in Quezon City, PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ricardo Morales, said they have started the necessary preparations for the UHC rollout.

“We already have a date; it will be 1 January 2020. So, until that date, we will be very busy because we have to communicate with our stakeholders,” Morales said.

He said included in the preparations are the identification of the initial areas and demographics to be covered by the program, budget appropriation, identification of clinics, hospitals, and other facilities that would provide the service, and a communications plan.

Due to budgetary constraints, Morales said the initial implementation of the UHC law next year will focus on indigents in geographically-isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA) or those unable to pay for their health care and insurance.

Currently, PhilHealth has been allocated with PHP67.4 billion for the implementation of the UHC program.

However, Morales said they were still in talks with the Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Senate and the House of Representatives about increasing the UHC budget to PHP153 billion to allow for a larger rollout of the national program.

“Nakikipag-usap pa kami sa DOF at sa DBM, at saka sa Senado at saka sa House of Representatives to see if we can still add to the budget—but kung limitado ang budget ng PhilHealth dun natin iko-concentrate sa mga tinatawag na GIDA (We are still in talks with the DOF, DBM, the Senate, and the House of Representatives to see if we can still add to the budget—but if the PhilHealth’s limited budget remains, we will concentrate on those we call GIDA),” Morales said.

However, Morales said that even increasing the program’s budget to PHP153 billion would not make the full rollout of the UHC law nationwide possible, which is why it will instead be implemented gradually.

He added that PhilHealth does not expect nor rely on the full budget to be provided for their implementation of the UHC program.

“We’re prepared for a diminished budget,” Morales said.

When questioned about the possibility of fraudulent transactions once the program starts, he said PhilHealth will try to make their operations as efficient as possible.

“Fraud will always be there, but we will try to reduce it,” Morales said.

Last September, a total of PHP166.5 billion was allocated for the UHC program’s first year of implementation.

Of this amount, PHP67.4-billion was earmarked for PhilHealth’s implementation of the UHC law, PHP9.5-billion for the deployment of health care personnel to the provinces, PHP9.4-billion for medical assistance to poor patients, PHP5.9-billion for health facilities, and the remaining for other healthcare-related expenses. (PNA)

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