Rx for Health: Reforms in the PhilHealth


Press release

December 10, 2010

The Right to Health, as stated in the Universal Health Care blueprint, is a basic human right guaranteed in our Constitution. Failure to address our peoples’ right to health not only gravely violates this basic human right, but it is an act of plunder of the gravest kind.

“The country’s deteriorating health care situation is urgent not just for the poor themselves but for all of us whose general welfare depends on the good health of all. Radical changes in various arenas of the health care sector are imperative in order to reverse these trends. One of these is the institutionalization of reforms in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth),” Medical Action Group (MAG) said.

“Let us consider six out of 10 Filipinos who succumb to sickness die without even seeing a doctor. The inequities in access to and availment of health care services are glaring. This is completely true for any Filipino family, especially the poor when an illness striking any of its members is considered as a tragedy,” MAG declared.

From one administration to another, the same deficiencies remain in the list that has plagued the health care situation in the country. Key health care issues crippling the nation like the health care inequities, failed public health care financing, the continuous exodus of health care professionals and weak health regulation pose barriers for the Aquino administration on treading the “tuwid na daan” and in attaining Universal Health Care coverage.

Edeliza P. Hernandez, MAG Executive Director, emphasized that “Universal Health Care is achievable but reforms must go beyond ensuring that each Filipino has a PhilHealth card. Universal Health Care for us means that every PhilHealth cardholder will not get only the card but also the essential health services, basic medicines and appropriate quality health care.”

Based on the 2007 Philippine National Health Accounts, of the total health spending, 54 percent came from out-of-pocket payments made by the patients. And in the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey, PhilHealth coverage is measly 38 percent. To overcome these barriers, key to attaining universal health coverage, according to the World Health Report 2010 of the World Health Organization (WHO), is raising sufficient resources for health.

“This situation is debilitating to the poorer majority of Filipinos who have no pockets to begin with. The government must admit that PhilHealth fall short. How can reforms in the PhilHealth be done? Certainly it will begin with making sure that over 11 million Filipino families who are the poorest of the poor will be supported and covered by an allocation of P15 billion to cover their PhilHealth premium,” Hernandez explained.

In attaining Universal Health Care coverage for all Filipinos, MAG proposed the following, in medium-term, the development of an initial package of basic health services to be made available to every Filipino given the present resources available to the health sector.

Through PhilHealth to expand the outpatient health care benefits;

  • Waive local government units’ (LGU) contributions from low income and poorest municipalities and provinces for PhilHealth premiums and using instead such LGU funds to improve health facilities and quality of health care;
  • Expand the coverage of the Cheaper Medicines Law for all non-patent pharmaceutical products; and;
  • Ensure 100 most essential drugs in generics are available in every health facility all the time.

Striving for universal health care coverage for all Filipinos is an admirable goal. The government should protect, promote and fulfill the peoples’ right to health, and a lot of our social and economic ills will also take care of themselves.

“Healthy Filipino families make for a healthy nation,” MAG concluded.-end-