By Bernadette D. Nicolas, February 21 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to PCOO; as cited by Business Mirror

Every Filipino may soon be covered by a national health insurance program as President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Universal Health Care Act.

The law, signed on Wednesday, seeks to improve access to health services by ensuring the availability of medicines and health facilities.

“By automatically [enrolling] our citizens into the National Health Insurance Program and expanding PhilHealth coverage to include free medical consultations and laboratory tests, the Universal Healthcare Law that I sign today will guarantee equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare services for all Filipinos,” Duterte said in a speech during a ceremonial signing event in Malacañang.

The bill, which was also previously certified as urgent by the President also reconstitutes the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation into the Philippine Health Security Corporation and will become the national purchaser of health services.

The traditional budget sources for the Universal Health Care Law include premium contributions of members of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, annual appropriations from the Department of Health included in the General Appropriations Act, and government subsidy.

Aside from this, fund sources also include total incremental sin tax collections: 50 percent of the National Government Share in the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and 40 percent of the Charity Fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, net Documentary Stamp Tax payments, and mandatory contributions of the national subsidy in the General Appropriations Act.

A Health Technology Assessment Council will be formed to oversee the implementation of the UHC.

Moreover, the UHC law also aims to boost localized healthcare by ensuring they are well-funded and staffed.

PhilHealth payments in local hospitals will now be used to improve its facilities and services.

Furthermore, it will now require recipients of government-funded scholarships for health-related courses to render service in the public sector for at least three years.

The government will soon be crafting the Implementing Rules and Regulations to thresh out the guidelines on how the law should be implemented.

According to the law, it will take 15 days for the measure to be effective after it is published in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of a general circulation.