In an anti-climactic turn of events, the Department of Health (DOH) has announced that the nationwide implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law by 2020 is not yet possible, citing budget reasons and lack of preparation among concerned agencies.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III made the admission during the DOH budget hearing before the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee.
DOH Not Ready for Universal Health Care Law 2020 Push
The health secretary added that the department still needs to conduct “capacity building” across various provinces, which, under Republic Act No. 11223, would serve as convergence points of integration for reforms in the Philippine health care system, as shared in a report by The Inquirer.
Duque explained that the components of the UHC are service delivery, health regulation, health care financing, governance and performance accountability, and health systems development.
Citing these components, Duque shared: “We cannot do a national rollout because of budgetary constraints and also because of the readiness. We need to do capacity building in the different provinces, who under the law will be the convergence points of integration.”
Of note, the budget department has allocated PHP 165.5 billion for the implementation of the UHC law.
At this point in time, Duque explained that what the department can do now is to roll out the UHC in different pilot areas, which will serve as a model for the UHC implementation.
For his part, Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo cited 33 provinces and cities for the first-year implementation of the UHC law. Bayugo explained that these areas were chosen because they were the first ones that have expressed commitment to implementing the law.
The 33 areas are:
NCR: Valenzuela, Parañaque
Region I (Ilocos): Dagupan City
Cordillera: Baguio City, Benguet province
Region II (Cagayan Valley): Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino
Region III (Central Luzon): Bataan, Tarlac
Region IV-A (Calabarzon): Batangas, Quezon
Region IV-B (Mimaropa): Oriental Mindoro
Region V (Bicol): Masbate, Sorsogon
Region VI (Western Visayas): Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, Iloilo
Region VII (Central Visayas): Cebu
Region VIII (Eastern Visayas): Biliran, Leyte, Samar
Region IX (Zamboanga Peninsula): Zamboanga del Norte
Region X (Northern Mindanao): Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental
Region XI (Davao Region): Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte
Region XII (Soccsksargen): Saranggani, South Cotabato
Caraga: Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte
Based on this proposal, the remaining areas would be covered in the next budget cycle or in 2021.
It’s quite unfortunate to hear that the planning for such big of a program does not appear to be well-coordinated and structured as expected. And with only two years left for the President to boost sectors that he identified as priority areas at the national level, there is fear that such good programs may not push through at all.