Malacañang on Thursday thumbed down the plan of state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to delay the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 11223 or the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said PhilHealth’s bid to postpone the full implementation of the UHC Act is a violation of the law.
“Ito po ay labag sa literal na probisyon ng batas (That violates the literal provision of the law, as well as the intention),” Roque said in a virtual press briefing aired on state-run PTV-4.
Roque made the statement after PhilHealth president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales, during a joint congressional committee hearing on Tuesday, stressed the need for a “general delay” of UHC implementation, as he forecast a budget deficit for the agency until 2024.
Morales noted that PhilHealth is expected to lose around PHP40.7 billion from February this year until January 2021 due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Roque bucked Morales’ proposal, stressing that the full implementation of UHC should proceed as planned.
He also noted that PhilHealth’s funds are not enough to provide Filipinos an efficient delivery of health services.
“Hindi maibibigay ang karapatan ng mabuting kalusugan kung ang aasahan lamang ay iyong mga premiums na binabayad sa PhilHealth (We will not be able to protect the Filipinos’ right to health if we only rely on PhilHealth’s premiums),” Roque said.
RA 11223, inked by Duterte on February 20, 2019, intends to protect and promote the right to health of all Filipinos by automatically enrolling them in the government’s health insurance program.
The UHC is meant to give every Filipino the highest possible quality of health care that is accessible, efficient, equitably distributed, adequately funded, fairly financed, and appropriately used.
Roque said PhilHealth should ensure the full implementation of UHC law.
“I’m not warning. It’s just that it is the law that has to be implemented,” he said. “Tutustusan po iyan. Iyan po talaga ang central feature ng Universal Health Care (We have to allot funds for it. That is the central feature of Universal Health Care. This is not an ordinary medical insurance.”
Corruption hounding PhilHealth
On Wednesday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government is now looking for money to implement RA 11223.
Roque said the full implementation of UHC law would not be successful if corruption continues to hound PhilHealth.
“Kung hindi po matatanggal ang korapsyon diyan sa PhilHealth ay talagang hindi po magtatagumpay ang Universal Health Care (We will not be successful implementing the universal health care if corruption in PhilHealth will not be eliminated),” he said.
In June last year, Duterte asked then PhilHealth acting president Roy Ferrer and board members to resign to “have a clean slate absent of any taint of irregularity in rendering services, as well as implementing pertinent policies on health, including the Universal Health Care Act.”
Roque said it would be better to tap a new government office that would implement the UHC law if PhilHealth cannot do its job.
“Siguro po hahanap na lang po ng iba na pupuwedeng magpatupad niyan (Perhaps, it’s better to scout for another agency that can implement that),” he said.
Cause for concern
Roque lamented that until now, some PhilHealth officials are still involved in irregularities under the leadership of Morales.
He added that Duterte considers the continuing corruption in PhilHealth as a cause for concern.
“It is a matter that concerns the President dahil zero-tolerance po si Presidente gaya po pagdating po sa korapsyon (because he has zero-tolerance when it comes to corruption),” Roque said.
Roque also claimed that Morales has yet to take appropriate actions against erring PhilHealth officials.
To address the problems besetting PhilHealth, Roque said he would ask Duterte to hold a meeting with him and Morales.
“Manghihingi ako ng pagpupulong kay Presidente ng sa gayon ay maimbitahan si General Morales at pupunta rin po ako para masabi ko naman kung ano talaga ang aking damdamin (I will ask the President to invite Morales in a meeting and I will also attend so I can express my sentiments),” he said. (PNA)