Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go assured Filipinos that he will fight for the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law amid concerns surrounding the landmark law which automatically enrolls all Filipinos in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) National Health Insurance Program.
“Gaya po ng parating sinasabi ko sa inyo na ipaglalaban ko na ma-implementa ang Universal Health Care Law at maisalba ang operasyon ng PhilHealth. Napaka-importante ng kalusugan. Prayoridad natin ‘yan ngayon lalo na sa pandemic na ito,” Go, who is Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, said in an interview on Saturday, June 27.
“Sa mga senior citizens naman, nasa budget naman po ‘yung para po sa mahigit six million senior citizens natin. Meron po kaming pina-follow up na ma-release kaagad, ‘yung dagdag pondo na PhP4 billion para sa 800,000 na senior citizens natin, para covered po sila sa kanilang PhilHealth,” said Go.
Go referred to the additional PhP4 billion worth of funds to PhilHealth to cover the one-year health insurance premium contribution of 800,000 senior citizens. The Congress-introduced increase is chargeable against the PhilHealth’s appropriation under the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Budgetary Support to Government Corporations, Republic Act (RA) No. 11465 or the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for FY 2020.
“Malaking ginhawa po ito sa kanila lalo na sa kasalukuyang pandemic na nagbabanta sa kanilang kalusugan,” Go added.
As one of the high risk groups who need adequate safeguards against COVID-19, Go emphasized that the government should continue promoting the welfare of senior citizens who have dedicated their lives contributing to nation-building.
“Malaki po ang kontribusyon ng ating senior citizens sa ating lipunan. Panahon naman po para ibalik natin ito sa kanila sa pamamagitan ng pagbibigay ng serbisyong may malasakit at maaasahan,” Go said.
Pursuant to RA No. 10645, all senior citizens are covered by the National Health Insurance Program of PhilHealth. Funds necessary to ensure the enrollment of all senior citizens not currently covered by any existing category will be sourced from the National Health Insurance Fund of PhilHealth from the proceeds of RA 10351 or the Sin Tax Reform Act.
Under RA No. 11465 or the FY 2020 GAA, the PhilHealth has an authorized appropriation of PhP71.353 billion to implement the National Health Insurance Program, of which PhP31.177 billion is allocated for the senior citizens, pursuant to RA No. 10645.
In said interview, Go also mentioned that he previously appealed to the Department of Health to ensure the availability of medicines and other supplements needed by the elderly population amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the provision of a 20% discount for vitamins and mineral supplements prescribed by doctors.
“Patuloy natin na ipinaglalaban ang kapakanan at kabutihan ng ating senior citizens. May 20% discount ang vitamins and minerals supplements na kailangan nilang bilhin,” he said
As a result of Go’s earlier appeal, the DOH amended its policy through Administrative Order (AO) 2012-0007-A. Under the latest administrative order, vitamins and mineral supplements which are prescribed by a physician for prevention and treatment of diseases, illness or injury will be entitled to 20% discount for senior citizens.
“Hindi lang po yun, marami rin po tayong isinusulong noong mga nakaraang buwan at ipaglalaban natin ang kapakanan ng senior citizens. Napirmahan na rin ni Pangulong Duterte ang isang Executive Order para mas maimplementa ng maayos ang Cheaper Medicines Act. Para sa mga bilihin po ng mga senior citizens, merong dagdag na listahan ng gamot na pwedeng bilhin (sa mas murang presyo),” Go said referring to EO No. 104 on the Maximum Drug Retail Price signed by President Rodrigo Duterte early this year which cuts the retail prices of some 87 high cost medicines by up to 58%.
During the meeting of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the UHC Law weeks ago, Go also emphasized the importance of ensuring that the PhilHealth has enough budget to cover the healthcare needs of Filipinos, especially vulnerable sectors.
“Napakaimportante po ng PhilHealth sa atin at iyong health care system natin. We cannot afford na mag-falter o mag-fail dito sa mga succeeding years pa po. Dahil nangako tayo. Inaprubahan po ito ng Kongreso, iyong UHC Law, at iyon—lalung-lalo na po sa mga mahihirap nating mga kababayan na wala pong pambayad talaga. Umaasa po na sasagutin po ng PhilHealth iyong mga kulang,” he added.
Go urged fellow lawmakers to review the law for possible enhancement that will guarantee universal health care for all Filipinos.
“Pag-aralan nating mabuti, taking into consideration the current situation of the country, the plight of our OFWs and the health care system of the country,” Go said, adding that “any amendment should not be at the expense of providing universal health care for all.”
Senator Go explained that due to the impact of the current pandemic on the implementation of the UHC Law, the current premium collection of the PhilHealth has dropped significantly.
“Sabi nga ng presidente nila (PhilHealth), si Gen. Morales, as of this date ay 10% pa lang ang kanilang nakokolekta kasi direct contributors are not able to pay their premium,” Go said.
On top of PhilHealth’s coverage, Go mentioned that Malasakit Centers all over the country remain functional to assist indigent patients. “Sa mga kababayan natin, kung sakaling hindi kayang ma-cover ng UHC at PhilHealth ang inyong mga pangangailangan, pwede po kayong dumulong sa Malasakit Centers natin.”
“Meron na po tayong 71 na Malasakit Center at bukas pa rin po ito para magbigay ng tulong medikal sa ating mga kababayan. Batas na po ito. Lapitan niyo lang ang Malasakit Center. Inyo po ‘yun. Sa tao po ‘yun. Basta Pilipino ka, tutulungan ka,” he added.
Go also shared that Malasakit Centers are set to be opened in the provinces of Aurora, Sorsogon and Romblon as well.
“Hindi po natin nabuksan ito dahil inabutan ng pandemic. ‘Yung launching magiging through Zoom na lang po. Ang importante, ma-cater ang mga Pilipino sa mga probinsya ito,” Go said.