UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE Unready for 2020 NATIONWIDE Implementation; Only LIMITED COVERAGE

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This month of August has seen President Rodrigo Duterte in a flurry of using his powers as chief executive of the national government by signing into law a sizeable number of notable legislation from Congress. One of these lucky bills is the Universal Healthcare (UHC) Act or the country’s own take on similar legislation from the US during the Obama administration. Optimally the provisions of the new UHC law, enacted this past February, would take place in its entirety next year. Unfortunately, the implementing arm of universal healthcare, the Department of Health (DOH), is insisting that funding for the law is not enough to go ahead with a full rollout.

CNN Philippines reports that the Department of Health is not confident that the Universal Healthcare law will be ready to go into full implementation across the country anytime in the year 2020. In a statement given this Wednesday, August 28, Health Secretary Francisco Duque remarked that the earmarked P160.5 billion out of the national budget for next year is insufficient for the needs of a nationwide coverage for UHC. Duque adds that the readiness of the local government to work with national agencies to put the law into action is not quite there just yet.

In place of an unwieldy national implementation, the DOH has proposed that if universal healthcare must be rolled out next year, it can be done in a limited scale at only several key areas of the Philippines. DOH Undersecretary Gerardo Baguyo says the Department has selected 33 provinces and major cities that have ready local governments for UHC, as proposed by regional DOH directors. Baguyo stresses that no politicians had input in selecting the initial rollout areas for universal healthcare. The key provinces that have expressed readiness for UHC implementation indicated so by presenting a letter of intent from their respective governors plus a resolution from their respective provincial councils.

Provinces slated for initial universal healthcare implementation are: Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Bataan, Tarlac, Batangas, Quezon province, Oriental Mindoro, Masbate, Sorsogon, Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, Iloilo, Cebu, Biliran, all of Leyte and Samar, Zamboanga del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Sarangani, South Cotobato, Agusan del sur, Agusan del Norte, and Maguindanao. Cities designated as UHC-ready are Valenzuela City, Paranaque City, Dagupan City, Baguio City, and Cagayan de Oro. Secretary Francisco Duque has refuted accusations in Congress of favoritism by the DOH, saying that the areas not yet covered by UHC as of next year can still avail of any existing subsidized healthcare services.

Image courtesy of GMA News

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