Sunday, February 24, 2019

Social Commentary: Universal Healthcare for All Filipinos


It was in August 2018 that I fell in line to pay for the annual Philhealth contribution of my sister and her family and I was glad to see hundreds of people who were there to invest for health insurance in exchange for a good Healthcare benefits offered by the agency.  As a Healthcare worker, I have pledged not only for the healing of the sick people but also to become an advocate for health promotion and prevention. That time as I was seated on a chair to wait for my priority number to flash on the screen, I had a realization that people no matter their economic status are now becoming more aware of the advantages of having a healthy family that is free of illnesses and diseases and becoming a productive contributor in the society. 

But how about those individual or families who have no access to basic healthcare due to economic hardship? They may feel ineligible and intimidated for their Healthcare rights and they remain to be vulnerable to health crisis and health threat. 

I am glad to know that on February 20, 2019, finally the Universal Healthcare Act was enacted into law which grants all Filipinos to have access to affordable and better healthcare. This is a positive and perhaps the greatest measure towards a healthier citizens leading to productivity and wellness. 

Talking about the agency that has the mandate for its implementation, the Philippine Health Insurance Company or better known as Philhealth will have to ensure the automatic eligibility and membership of all Filipinos regardless of social and  economic standing; a greater service for our less privileged families and individual. 

The Fight for Universal Healthcare

This new law is not just an achievement of the legislative and executive body, but this is a great achievement of all Filipinos who have long been hoping for this initiative.

Just imagine how could Western countries able to give Universal Healthcare to its citizens that have started several years or decades back and why couldn't our country do the same? This has been a puzzle to me and perhaps to other Filipino who had a glimpse of the Healthcare status in a foreign country. 

Now our time has come, but the implementing rules and regulation of the new law is yet to be laid and we have to be aware of the Healthcare coverage, how we can truly benefit from it and when shall we start to benefit from it. 

Benefits of the Universal Healthcare Law

What the Philhealth can guarantee is the basic Healthcare services to existing premium contributors, indirect contributors or the indigents like our Senior Citizens and Persons with Disability and the non-indigent or non-premium contributor. That would mean free consultation, laborary tests and diagnostic tests are among the basic services covered to everyone. Almost all scope of health is covered including preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative care which gives holistic health and wellness to everyone. 

Sustainable Healthcare development 

Although we welcome the great Healthcare measures, we are yet to experience how it will be delivered. The funding source has been determined and the implementation of this new law will be gradual considering that the funding will be coming from a pool of different agency funds. 

The new law is very promising, however we would like also to see its greater success and development from now and in years to come and not to be exploited and mismanaged by our people in Healthcare authority. 

Issues in the Philippine Health Insurance

Our National Health Insurance Company, the Philhealth and private Health Management Organizations (HMO) has been delivering its healthcare services in partnership with our Healthcare institutions; hospitals, clinics, health centers nationwide. They have always been to the rescue whenever we seek medical help, however their insurance coverage is not comprehensive as they do not cover all health conditions and other health services and this has been a challenge for those who couldn't afford or having financial difficulty at the time of seeking medical attention. 

When I was working at The Medical City in Iloilo, I have already learned about issues like non-payment or delay of payment of Philhealth for hospital claims to several member hospitals in the country. This would also cause for delay in the hospitals to pay their medical providers and this has led to another issue that some medical providers would charge their clients an additional cash payment for professional fee which is already covered by Philhealth. This issue happened to my sister and she asserted her rights against the double charging of her provider.  This scenario would lose the confidence of other Philhealth members if such case happens to them which is against the primary goal of Philhealth on its mandate to lessen the financial burden of Filipinos upon seeking medical treatment. 

Continuous Healthcare reform 

The Universal Healthcare law is a good start in providing Healthcare access to All Filipinos; a measure that no one will be excluded and left behind in Healthcare services due to poor economic status. 

However, challenges in Government and corporate social service is still something that Filipinos must all fight to be able to achieve a better healthcare for all. 

For the Philhealth, may the agency uphold good governance and continue to update their policies and coverage to package benefits that are not selective to particular medical condition. This is a burden to the Filipino people because we do not choose the kind of disease once it strikes just to be covered by our insurance provider. We do not choose when to get sick and when to get treated. We do not choose the end of our physical suffering and the end of our life. 

We do not have control on our health crisis, but we can do something for its promotion and prevention so we will not suffer and pay for its consequence. We have to take good care of our health so we will be spared from illnesses and diseases. Though it is inevitable, we can help ourselves, our families and communities by choosing healthy lifestyle that is away from too much stress and vices so we can achieve health and longevity leading to a productive citizen that we can be.

As we continue to contribute towards nation-building, we have to be respectfully assertive of our healthcare bill of rights and at the same time be supportive of our Government's mandate in providing better healthcare to All Filipinos so we can achieve wellness and so we can live our greatest life.

© 2019 Del Cusay



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