Making healthcare accessible


‘By institutionalizing Universal Health Care, we can guarantee that every Filipino receives the medical treatment  he needs with the financial  assistance he deserves’

Rainy season is once again upon us and weather-related ailments are again sure to crop up. The non-stop monsoon rains the past few days are sure to bring the usual ailments — cough and colds, fever and flu.

While some of us take for granted the medications for these illnesses as we can afford to buy said medicines, there are some of our kababayans out there who really do not have the financial capability to pay for even simple over-the-counter medicines.

When I was a still a member of Congress, my office received a lot of requests for medical assistance. Day in and day out, people would troop to my office on the ground floor of the Mitra Building at the House of Representatives seeking any amount that could augment their funds. We tried to accommodate everyone as much as we could, but there were times that the sheer number of requests proved too much for us to give assistance to all.

Unfortunately, our present health care system is structured in such a way, that like it or not, only the rich can truly afford access to quality health care. This is why one of the proudest moments in my short stint at the House of Representatives is the passage of House Bill Number 5784 or the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Bill on third reading on Sept. 6, 2017. As the principal author of the bill, this symbolized the golden opportunity for change for a better healthcare system in our country.

I filed my version of the bill during my very first day in the House of Representatives. In fact, I was the first member of the 17th Congress to do so. I prioritized this bill because Filipinos who cannot afford treatment should not bear the heavy weight of paying off these medical services. As enshrined in the Constitution, “The State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost.”

This is where the need for an effective health system comes in, one that focuses both on improving the health of beneficiaries while limiting the financial consequences of medical care. The UHC Bill addresses this need.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte approved the UHC as a priority legislative agenda of his administration. The UHC Bill is groundbreaking because with it, every Filipino is granted the right to health by virtue of citizenship, not class or social standing. It provides health security to Filipinos not because they can pay premiums, but simply because they are Filipinos. 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.

This will benefit people from all economic strata, but the poor, most especially, shall find better lives because of it.

One of the key features of the bill is that it enables all individuals and communities to receive the full spectrum of health services they need, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. This includes in-patient, out-patient, and emergency care services encompassing preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative medical, dental, and mental health services. In short, the UHC Bill 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.

By institutionalizing Universal Health Care, we can guarantee that every Filipino receives the medical treatment he needs with the financial assistance he deserves. Unlike contribution-based programs, the right to Universal Health Care is not dependent on one’s contributions or membership. We move much closer to properly devoting government taxes to save and improve lives of the Filipino people.

Filipinos, especially the poor who do not have regular cash income or struggle to pay premiums, will be the major beneficiaries of this proposed law. By enacting this bill into law, we live up to our commitment of ensuring that those who have less in life should be given more in law. I pray that this bill’s counterpart in the Senate, Senate Bill Number 1458, will also soon pass.