Salceda slams DOH ‘cop out’ on free health care 2020 roll-out

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    ALBAY Rep. Joey Salceda on Wednesday night slammed the Department of Health for saying that it is not yet ready to fully implement the Universal Health Care Act next year, saying the department is just setting a “preemptive excuse” for its failure.

    “That cop out is morally unacceptable,” said Salceda, chair of the House committee on ways and means, adding: “It should be called the ‘Partial Healthcare law’ instead of Universal Healthcare law.”

    The government is setting aside revenues from the Palace-backed bill increasing taxes on alcohol, heated tobacco and vapor products to fund the UHC law.

    The new measure increasing sin taxes was heard and approved by the ways and means committee and was approved on final reading after Salceda defended it on the floor.

    Salceda said a national rollout of the new law should be undertaken next year despite the insufficient national budget allocated for it under the P4.1 trillion proposed national budget for 2020.

    “It should be rolled out nationally since there are many things beyond the budget that the DOH can do,” said the lawmaker who served as socio-economic secretary during the Arroyo administration.

    Salceda said the DOH can work for better enforcement of regulations on drug prices and step up its immunization to reduce morbidity cases.

    He said the DOH can negotiate with doctors and hospital associations on professional and other fees; work with local government units (LGUs) on preventative public health and reorganize the community health teams; and implement “laser-beam” interventions on vulnerable communities and sectors.

    Health Secretary Francis Duque on Wednesday said the UHC law cannot be implemented nationwide next year even if the department’s projected “strategic readiness” is 2020 because of budgetary constraints.

    The health chief said the government will need at least P257 billion to fund the law, but the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) was only able to allocate P166.5 for its implementation next year.

    Duque however said the DOH has already identified certain provinces where the law’s various provisions will be implemented but admitted they still need to conduct “capacity building” in the different provinces, which, under the UHC law will serve as convergence points of integration for reforms in the health care system.

    President Duterte last February signed Republic Act No. 11223, about 30 years since it was first proposed.

    The new law automatically enrolled all Filipinos under the National Health Insurance Program and PhilHealth coverage will now cover medical consultations and laboratory tests.

    Under the law, indirect members of PhilHealth, or those who are not paying members, will get the basic benefits; while direct or paying members will get additional incentives.