President Benigno Aquino III’s program aimed at providing health coverage to all Filipinos in two years is achievable, but only if basic issues in the country’s health care systemare addressed, a health group said on Saturday.
In a statement on its 28th founding anniversary, the Medical Action Group (MAG) said “Aquino’s health program will surely fail unless the issues and deficiencies plaguing the Philippine health care system for decades are addressed.”
MAG stressed, “Health care inequalities, failed public health financing, the continuous exodus of health care professionals and weak health regulation must be addressed before the present administration could ever dream of ‘giving all Filipinos access to health services when they need it.’” [See story : Health coverage for all Filipinos in 2 years]
It said the growing poverty incidence has left more and more Filipinos no option other than rely on the private sector for their health care needs, and that the right to health has become a privilege of those who can pay the high cost of commercial health services.
It also noted the exodus of health care professionals in pursuit of greener pastures abroad is worsening, leaving a handful of doctors, nurses and health workers to take care of the health needs of a burgeoning population.
Moreover, MAG said “the system for health regulations has been chronically weak, ineffective and has not been used as an effective policy instrument, and out-of-pocket payments for health care services are increasing. This practice is debilitating to the majority of Filipinos who have no pockets to begin with.”
Unless all of these issues are addressed, the dream of a universal health care for all Filipinos would remain elusive, it added.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) expressed confidence the program to provide health coverage for all Filipinos can be achieved within two years.
DOH Secretary Enrique Ona said critical reforms in the Philippine Health Insurance Company (PhilHealth) will help achieve health care targets.
“DOH will strengthen the national health insurance program by enrolling five million of the poorest Filipino families into PhilHealth,” Ona added.
But MAG noted that in 1995, the National Health Insurance Law, which established the PhilHealth, called for health insurance for all Filipinos by 2010.
However, after 15 years, the government (now under a new administration) is making the same call and laying down the same targets.
The government “must admit that the PhilHealth failed, as it has barely been able to protect 38 percent of all Filipinos as cited in the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey, MAG said. — Jerbert Briola/LBG, GMANews.TV