By  Jovee Marie de la Cruz, August 29 2019; Business Mirror

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THE Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday admitted that the new Universal Health Care (UHC) law may not be implemented nationwide next year.

During the 2020 national budget briefing of the DOH at the House of Representatives, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told lawmakers the schedule of the nationwide rollout of UHC law in 2020 is affected by budgetary constraints and their own readiness.

“We cannot do a national rollout [for the UHC law] because of budgetary constraints and because of the [agency’s] readiness,” he said.

We need to do capacity building in the different provinces, who, under the law, will be the convergence points of integration,” Duque added.

Earlier, the Department of Finance said the government needs P257 billion for the first year of the implementation of UHC law in 2020. Under the 2020 national budget, the government has allocated P166.5 billion for the implementation of the UHC law.

For 2020, the DOH budget, meanwhile, amounts to P160.15 billion. The budget is 5 percent less than the department’s 2019 appropriations. The decrease in the budget is due to a lower allocation for the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) at P5.9 billion, which in 2019 has a budget level of P15.9 billion.

Another reason for the decrease is the complete transfer of the entire personnel services funds of the Human Resources for Health (HRH) Deployment Program to the Miscellaneous Personnel and Benefits Fund. In 2019, HRH has a PS budget level of P5.14 billion.

Low utilization

Meanwhile, lawmakers questioned the consistent low budget utilization of the health agency.

According to Duque, the two major cost items behind the low budget utilization are the HFEP and public health program commodities.

Duque said the implementation of the HFEP has been affected by issues on implementation readiness, which includes lot ownership issues, lack of DENR requirement, and peace and order situation.

He added there are also issues on mode of payment, late submission of billing by the external clients and incomplete document requirement for billing.

For public health program commodities, the secretary raised the procurement concerns, such as no local suppliers that can provide the required quantity for TB drugs for children, cancellation of procurement because of overlaps of commodities and global shortage in supply of rabies vaccines.