Universal health coverage bill clears House

September 7, 2017 - 8:39 AM
File photo of birth control pills. REUTERS FILE

MANILA, Philippines — The Universal Health Coverage bill, which aims to give Filipinos access to a “full spectrum of health services,” was passed on third and final reading by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, September 6.

A total of 222 House members voted in favor of House Bill No. 5784, with only seven opposed it.

The measure mandates that all individuals and communities should receive the full spectrum of health services they need, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.

“This includes inpatient, outpatient, and emergency care services encompassing preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative medical, dental, and mental health services,” Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque, who defended the bill during plenary debates, said.

“In short, UHC enables everyone to access the services that address the most important causes of disease and death, and ensures that the quality of those services is good enough to improve the health of the people to receive them,” he added.

Roque hailed the approval of the bill, saying this “gives spirit to the right to health of the people.”

“This bill is groundbreaking because with it, every Filipino is granted the right to health by virtue of citizenship. It provides health security to Filipinos not because they can pay premiums, but simply because they are Filipinos,” he said.

Under the UHC Bill, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is reconstituted into the Philippine Health Security Corporation (PHSC) as it becomes the national purchaser of health services.

UHC membership will be categorized into two: contributory, or those who pay such as public and private workers; and non-contributory workers, or those who give no contributions such as indigents.

The bill also provides for the adoption and institutionalization of Health Technology Assessment and the creation of the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC).

HTA denotes any process of examining or reporting properties of a medical technology used in health care, including safety, efficacy, feasibility, and indications for use; cost-effectiveness; as well as social, economic, and ethical consequences, whether intended or unintended.

“HB 5784 provides for the institutionalization of HTA to guide decision makers, particularly in the procurement of medical devices, commodities, drugs, and vaccines. The HTAC will serve as advisory body to the Health Secretary and the Board of Directors of the PHSC on the priority entitlements for universal health coverage,” Roque said.

Another key feature of the bill is the mandating of income retention for all government health facilities.

Roque explained the bill authorizes Department of Health (DOH)-retained hospitals, specialty hospitals, and LGU-hospitals to utilize 100 percent of their income to enhance their capacity and improve the quality of their services.

The UHC bill provides for a clear delineation of functions of agencies and sectors involved in health services, addressing the high fragmentation of the present health system in the country.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development is mandated to cover all indirect costs that are borne out of accessing medical services such as transportation, accommodation, or halfway house, and meals.

The Department of Interior and Local Government, in partnership with the Department of Health, shall coordinate and promote the implementations of the UHC law, including the execution of the operation and investment plans of local government units related to health.

The LGUs, meanwhile, will be responsible for delivering population and individual-based health services in communities within their respective jurisdiction.