Universal Health Care law, step toward healthier PH: solons

MANILA — Senators have lauded the enactment of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act as a crucial step toward a healthier Philippines.

In a statement on Thursday, Senator Sonny Angara said the landmark legislation would give Filipinos access to quality health services without exposing them to financial hardship.

“Every Filipino is now assured of access to good quality preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services without the risk of financial hardship when paying for them,” Angara said.

“Unti-unti na nating nakakamit ang ating adhikain na dapat ay walang Pilipinong nagigipit tuwing nagkakasakit (Little by little, we are now achieving our goal that no Filipino should not feel desperate every time he gets sick),” Angara added.

Angara, one of the authors of the law, said Filipinos will have a better chance of survival from illnesses, as the enhanced access to preventive health care services will reduce hospitalization and improve the health of those with non-communicable or lifestyle diseases long before their conditions become irreversible.

Free preventive health care service includes free check-up, laboratory tests and medicines, to help people to remain healthy and to detect any health-related problems early when they may be easier to treat, Angara said.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, a principal author, said the UHC law will transform the health seeking behavior of Filipinos, noting that medical consultation and several basic laboratory tests will be made affordable and accessible.

“This will allow the people to value their health more by regularly consulting with doctors. ‘Bawal magkasakit dahil magastos magkasakit (It’s too costly to get ill)’ shall be a thing of the past,” he said.

Under the UHC law, all Filipinos become automatic members of PhilHealth and are covered by the National Health Insurance Program of the government.

“Ibig sabihin, hindi na mangangamba ang ating mga kababayan tuwing sila’y magkakasakit o sa mga pagkakataon na madapuan ng karamdaman ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay. Karamay na ang gobyerno sa gastusin at abot-kaya na ang pagpapagamot (Filipinos should not worry when they get sick or in instances when their loved ones are ill. The government will help you financially and medicines would be more affordable),” Ejercito said.

Ejercito also vowed to ensure the sustainable funding for UHC, as well as the success of its implementation by working with the civil society organizations, medical community, and other stakeholders.

Senator Nancy Binay, meanwhile, described the signing of the UHC law as a massive win for every Filipino family.

“I would like to congratulate Senator JV Ejercito, my fellow legislators, health advocates, people’s organizations, and those in the healthcare sector, for the collective effort to realize a once elusive dream of a ‘health care for all’,” Binay said.

“Ang batas na ito–na binansagang “JV Ejercito Law”–ay patunay na kaya ng pamahalaan na maging karamay at katuwang ng mga kababayan natin pagdating sa pangangalagang pangkalusugan,” she added.

Binay said the passage of the UHC law is “timely and much-needed” as the National Health Security Program mandates universal health care coverage and benefits to all Filipinos.

“We know that the fight isn’t over. We still need to improve the doctor-to-patient ratio, upgrade hospital bed capacities and equipment, and build more hospitals in remote places. The journey is still far, but we’re getting there,” she added.

On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the landmark legislation in a ceremony at the Rizal Hall in Malacañang Palace, saying the new law will surely make a positive impact in the lives of the people.

“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 signed today will guarantee equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare services for all Filipinos,” Duterte said in his speech.

Under the legislation, all Filipino citizens, including overseas Filipino workers, will be enrolled into PhilHealth, which will have a coverage expanded to include free consultation fees, laboratory tests and other diagnostic services.

It also aims to improve doctor-to-patient ratio, upgrades hospital bed capacities and equipment and established more hospitals in remote areas. Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA-northboundasia.com