THE Universal Health Care (UHC) program may not see full implementation until the final year of the Duterte administration, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales said yesterday.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque has earlier told congressmen that the Duterte administration’s free health care program cannot yet be carried out on a nationwide basis next year due to budgetary constraints.
“Since we still don’t have the budget, we will have a gradual rollout… Full implementation? Candidly, about three years,” Morales told reporters.
“It is a very ambitious law if you look at the provisions of the law. It is very challenging,” he added.
Duque again defended the government’s failure to fully implement the UHC next year saying it should instead be seen as a “progressive rollout” of the program.
He said this is because the UHC law provides the DOH (Department of Health) a six-year transition period to implement the program.
“We cannot demand the complete integration of over 100 provincial and city health systems overnight when the law clearly provides for a realistic six-year period to accomplish this,” Duque said in a statement.
Morales said that aside from budgetary issues, PhilHealth also has several administrative and logistical issues which they will need more time to address.
“Funding is one problem. The other one is the absorptive capacity of the organization. We have to recruit more people, put up more local health insurance offices and extension offices,” he pointed out.
Morales said the free health care program will be piloted in 33 areas by 2020 before gradually increasing its coverage.
“For next year, I believe that there will be 33 sites or provinces identified, then increase that until we eventually cover the whole ecosystem,” said the PhilHealth chief.
Duque said the 33 pilot areas will be coming from strategic geographical areas of the country, which will include sites from 13 in Luzon, 10 in Mindanao, eight in Visayas, and two in the National Capital Region.
“The site map represents a fair and equitable distribution of DOH resources for this program,” said the health chief.
Duque also said they will continue to put premium in the enrollment of all Filipinos in the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) of PhilHealth.
“Right now, we are at 98 percent enrollment. We expect to achieve 100 percent enrollment by the end of the first year of UHC implementation,” Duque said.
Morales assured the public that the DOH and PhilHealth will be able to meet the deadline for the issuance of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) this month.
“We will meet that deadline in so far as crafting the IRR is concerned. I think it should be presented to DOH, then it will go to Congress,” said Morales.