Press Release
June 17, 2020

Drilon: Full implementation of Universal Health Care law key in fighting COVID-19

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon thumbed down the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation's plan to postpone the full implementation of the Universal Health Care Act, underscoring that the law is critical in the fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

"The precarious state of our current healthcare system is indeed very alarming. It affects our ability to win the war against this pandemic," Drilon said in a statement on Wednesday.

"But to halt the implementation of a law that would promote access to affordable care, strengthen our primary health care and make our people healthy to fight the virus is a step in the wrong direction," Drilon stressed.

Drilon said there is a need to address Philhealth's precarious position for it to be able to sustain its funding but said it should not be at the expense of the people who are relying on UHC for their health needs.

Drilon added the COVID-19 pandemic reveals the weaknesses and inequity in the current healthcare system, which the Universal Health Care Act seeks to address.

"Our neighboring countries like South Korea and Singapore are faring better in the war against COVID-19 precisely because of their effective universal healthcare coverage," Drilon said.

"Postponing the full implementation of the Universal Health Care Act is a huge misstep while other countries are working on ways to strengthen primary health care to prevent the spread of the virus, we would hear plans to postpone access to affordable care," he added.

"If COVID-19 taught us one thing, it is that we need to keep people healthy and we have to prepare for the next pandemic. UHC is the key," he said.

Drilon said he is worried that postponing the full implementation of the UHC could discourage poor people from seeking hospital treatments or primary health care even if they experience COVID-19 symptoms.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that given the pandemic, thereis a need "to fast track the transition to universal healthcare" which is set for next month.

He said he will seek a higher budget for the implementation of UHC in the 2021 national budget.

Drilon authored the Sin Tax Reform Law from which is the primary source of funding for the UHC.

Drilon also said that aside from excise taxes on alcohol, tobacco products and sweetened beverages, the implementation of UHC is sourced from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, premium contribution of members, annual appropriation of DOH under the General Appropriations Act, and National Government subsidy to Philhealth.

Drilon called on the Department of Budget and Management to increase funding for the health sector in the National Expenditure Program for 2021.

"If we learned anything about the onset of the pandemic, it is that the health sector must get a big part of the budgetary pie. The health of the people is the State's responsibility," he said.

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