by Elijah Felice Rosales – The Philippine Star, 19 Oct 2021
MANILA, Philippines — The universal health care (UHC) program will get another P80 billion in budget next year as the government vows to keep it financed despite funds running tight due to the pandemic.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told reporters the government will direct P80 billion for the UHC in 2022, committing that the program will receive its usual allocation to make sure all Filipinos can access medical facilities.
Further, Dominguez said state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) maintains P164 billion in reserves that it can tap for the delivery of UHC services.
“Again for 2022, we proposed an allocation of P80 billion for the premium subsidies for indirect contributors under the UHC law. Moreover, PhilHealth still has around P164 billion in its reserve fund as of June 2021 for the implementation of the UHC, (so it) will not be compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dominguez said.
Aside from the reserves, PhilHealth receives the largest subsidies from the government among all state-run firms. The agency has secured P76.06 billion in funding support as of end-August, accounting for more than half of the P136.71 billion issued to government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs).
However, subsidies extended to PhilHealth dipped by over 14 percent to P62.39 billion last year from P72.7 billion in 2019, as the government had to distribute its financing to GOCCs also needing support such as the Social Security System.
As the government’s expenditures grew during the pandemic, New York-based Fitch Solutions has warned that the Philippines may fall short of its goal of giving health access to every Filipino as stated under Republic Act 11223 or the UHC Act.
Last year Fitch scored the government for putting health behind in its fiscal priorities, increasing the amount to P185.5 billion, from P177.7 billion in 2019, but decreasing its share in the national budget to 4.9 percent from 4.5 percent.
As a consequence of the pandemic, health spending went up by roughly 13 percent to P895.88 billion in 2020 from P795.64 billion in 2019. Broken down, government schemes, including the UHC, accounted for about 46 percent at P409.39 billion of the amount.
However, out of pocket payments made up nearly 45 percent at P400.1 billion, while voluntary schemes comprised the remainder at P86.39 billion. Citing estimates from the World Bank, Fitch said the country records the highest share of household expenditure for health against regional counterparts like Indonesia (37 percent) and Thailand (12 percent).
The UHC gets its funding from excise taxes charged on tobacco products; dividends remitted by state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.; charity fund managed by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office; among others.
The government has assigned P242 billion for the health cluster in its spending plan for 2022, accounting for just 4.81 percent of its highest ever budget proposal worth P5.024 trillion.