Out-of-pocket spending for health hits P380B

    Heavy burden. Medical frontliners getting ready to administer a test. COVID-19 only highlighted the need for a comprehensive social protection for Filipinos. (Photo by RHOY COBILLA)
    Heavy burden. Medical frontliners getting ready to administer a test. COVID-19 only highlighted the need for a comprehensive social protection for Filipinos. (Photo by RHOY COBILLA)

    Household out-of-pocket payment remains the largest among sources of health financing in the country, accounting for nearly half of health expenses in 2019, data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.

    The PSA said yesterday the country’s current health expenditure (CHE) reached P792.6 billion last year, 10.9 percent higher compared to P714.8 billion in 2018.

    Of the said amount, household out-of-pocket payment accounted for nearly half or 47.9 percent, at P379.7 billion.

    Health spending financed through government schemes and compulsory contributory health care financing schemes came second at P332.8 billion with 42 percent share.

    Voluntary health care payment schemes contributed P80 billion or 10.1 percent share.

    Among the health providers, the PSA said bulk of CHE were spent on hospitals (43.6 percent), amounting to P345.5 billion.

    It was followed by pharmacies (30.3 percent) with P239.8 billion, while the providers of health care system administration and financing (7.4 percent) accounted for P58.9 billion.

    The total health expenditure (THE), which comprises of CHE (87.5 percent) and health capital formation expenditure (12.5 percent), recorded P906 billion in 2019, up by 7.9 percent from P839.7 billion in 2018.

    The PSA said as a result, the share of THE to the gross domestic product at current prices was 4.6 percent.

    On a per capita basis, health spending was at P6,662.2 in 2019, up by 7.4 percent compared to P6,200.3 the previous year.

    UN report highlights gaps in social protection in AsPac, amid COVID

    Meanwhile, a report released by the United Nations (UN) yesterday showed countries in Asia and the Pacific need to extend social protection coverage for all.

    According to the publication, The Protection We Want: Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific, jointly produced by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and International Labour Organization (ILO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, doing so would help them build back better after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

    The publication said it would also help them tackle a range of compounding challenges arising from population ageing, migration, urbanization, technological advancements, disasters and climate change.

    Yet, as this report finds, social protection systems in the region are riddled with gaps.

    “Comprehensive social protection creates the foundation for healthy societies and vibrant economies. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought this imperative into sharp focus, by demonstrating the stabilizing effect well-functioning social protection systems have and how their absence exacerbates inequality and poverty,” Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN under-secretary-general and executive secretary of ESCAP, said.

    “Delivering effective social protection to all people across our region is already shaping our approach, as we advocate combining short-term relief with longer-term strategies to build back better in the aftermath of the pandemic,” she added.

    The report identified the Philippines as among countries that had relatively comprehensive contributory social protection systems.

    However, the report also said while the Social Amelioration Program in the country was able to reach beneficiaries of the existing conditional cash transfers relatively quickly, payments to more than 13 million additional families faced significant delays.

    “Such examples highlight the need to build social protection systems for normal times that can respond to future crises,” the report said.

    “Generally, countries with the most effective responses to the pandemic are those that had robust systems in place before the crisis,” it added.

    The report said expanding social protection would have an immediate impact on reducing poverty, inequality and purchasing power disparities.

    “The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the precarious situation of many working women and men and especially those in the informal economy,” Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa, regional director ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, said.

    “There is a clear need for further investment in public social protection systems if we are to avoid the stagnation of social and economic progress made across the region in recent decades,” she added.