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The Senate passed on third and final reading Senate Bill 1896 or the Universal Health Care Bill that seeks to provide all Filipinos with equal access to quality and affordable health services.
This comes after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the proposed measure as urgent in his letter to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senate President Vicente Sotto III dated Oct. 10.
Under the bill, all Filipino citizens will automatically be enrolled into the National Health Insurance Program as a direct contributor (those who can afford to pay premiums) or as an indirect contributor (those sponsored by the government such as indigents, senior citizens, among others).
If enacted into law PhilHealth coverage would be expanded to include free consultation fees, laboratory tests and other diagnostic services.
Those without PhilHealth Identification Cards can still avail of primary health care services since the premium subsidy will be gradually adjusted and included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
Senator JV Ejercito, who sponsored the bill, said that lack of government support in health care has discouraged majority of Filipinos from consulting a doctor until it’s too late.
“This bill will ensure that financial issues will no longer be a burden to our countrymen when it comes to healthcare,” Ejercito said in his sponsorship speech.
The bill also calls for the improvement of doctor-to-patient ratio, upgrading of hospital bed capacities and equipment as well as establishment of hospitals in remote areas.
The Department of Health has recorded doctor-to-patient ratio at 1 is to 33,000 while bed to population ratio was pegged at 1 is to 1,121.
The proposed measure also requires graduates of health-related courses from state universities and colleges or government-funded scholarship programs to serve for at least three years in the public sector.
The House of Representatives had earlier passed a version of the bill in September 2017.