President Aquino’s administration piggy-backs its Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (KP) drive on the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). It even dubs the newly amended National Health Insurance Act (R.A. 10606), which revises policies governing programs and operations of PhilHealth, as the Philippine Universal Health Care Law.
Additional and enhanced benefit packages are a welcome improvement but insurance against health risks will not guarantee every Filipino’s access to health care, which includes health promotion and maintenance, disease prevention and medical intervention in times of illness. Further, not even a mandatory PhilHealth coverage for all Filipino citizens will ensure that members will be able to claim much-needed health services when they do not even know the existence of such programs, are not aware of the process of availment and cannot and/or do not know how to comply with the attendant documentary requirements.
These issues and more surfaced during the civil society forum, “Universal Health Care: Posible ba sa Amended PhilHealth?” held last Friday, 27 September 2013, in Quezon City through the joint effort of health advocates Action for Economic Reforms, Alternative Budget Initiative Health Cluster of Social Watch Philippines, Coalition for Health Advocacy and Transparency, WomanHealth Philippines and the Kampanya para sa Makataong Pamumuhay (KAMP).
During the event, more than 100 representatives from different organizations—women, informal settlers, differently abled, persons with genetic disorders, labor unions, youth and the elderly—engaged PhilHealth officers in shedding light on salient points of the amended law, its implementing rules and regulations (IRR), membership contributions and benefits, and mechanisms for people’s participation in monitoring and further improving the corporation’s operations and health insurance coverage.
What became clear during the discussion were the limited spaces for the public to engage PhilHealth as exemplified by the seemingly rushed public consultation on the new IRR, absence of/inadequate mechanisms for public participation in decision-making processes, and weak information and education campaigns. It was also stressed that the corporation’s programs remain focused on curative interventions and will still entail significant out-of-pocket payments for non-sponsored members. This highly questions the universal health care thrust of the Aquino administration considering the negligible difference in incomes, thus ability to pay, between sponsored members who are below the poverty threshold and the supposed “non-poor” who are above it.
Access to primary care benefits, such as consultation and counselling services for disease prevention and diagnostic examinations, is also presently limited to Sponsored Members or those whose membership contributions are paid by government agencies or other entities such as private companies or individuals. Those identified under the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction of the Department of Social Welfare and Development are eligible as beneficiaries of the Sponsored member program.
Since the Aquino administration seems to be using a targeted or selective approach instead of universalism and confuses universal health insurance coverage with universal health care, it is urgent that it comes out with its time frame in rolling out policies and programs to address health needs of every Filipino. Unless, PNoy and government health agencies are content with the Kalusugan Pangkalahatan propaganda line and in repackaging insurance as health care, in the same way it is attempting to repackage the highly controversial pork barrel system.
As for us in the civil society network of health advocates, we immediately demand the opening and enlargement of spaces for people’s participation in public health issues and public provision for health care starting with broader access to information and an intensified, and TRUTHFUL, awareness-raising campaign on PhilHealth. ###
Serbisyong Pangkalusugan: Saan Man, Sino Man, Kailan Man
Makataong Pamumuhay para sa Lahat !
1 October 2013
For Interviews: Ana Maria R. Nemenzo, Lead Convenor
For Correspondence: Don Pangan, Media Liaison Staff
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- [Statement] Fund People’s Protection against Poverty and Inequality -KAMP (hronlineph.com)
- [Statement] KAMP enjoins PNoy to listen to public demands vs. corrupt officials and pork barrel (hronlineph.com)
- PhilHealth urges rural health units to accommodate childbirth (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- [Press Release] Health advocates propose Pork for Universal Health Care; Hire nurses, doctors, midwives for every barangay (hronlineph.com)