MANILA — President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday signed the Universal Health Care Act into law which will automatically enroll all Filipinos under the government’s health insurance program.
Duterte signed the landmark legislation in a ceremony at the Rizal Hall in Malacañan 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 (OFWs), 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.
Earlier, Duterte certified the measure as “urgent,” expressing his desire to provide Filipinos with affordable, quality health services.
Once the law is released, concerned agencies will draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the law.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the UHC program may be implemented “gradually” since Congress has yet to draft a final bill raising tobacco taxes.
Panelo said the executive can make do with the PHP3.8 trillion budget for 2019.
“I’m sure our government will know how to source funds in accordance with the Constitution,” Panelo said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed the signing of the UHC Act describing it as a “critical step towards health for all Filipinos.”
“The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomes this development as it is excellent proof of commitment to improving access to high quality health services at the least cost to families,” the WHO said in a statement.
“We commend the Philippines for taking this step in the right direction,” it added. (PNA) By Azer Parrocha