Passed in the Senate last month, the Universal Health Care for All Filipinos Act (Senate Bill 1673) aimed to guarantee equal access to affordable quality health services for all Filipinos, including overseas Filipino workers. The measure will implement reforms in the ordinances of the governing bodies that ensure the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law such as the Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), and even the local government units (LGUs).

All Filipino citizens will automatically be enrolled under PhilHealth. PhilHealth coverage will be expanded to cover free consultation fees, laboratory tests and other diagnostic services. More than expanding insurance coverage, the bill also addresses a number of medical problems plaguing the nation today, such as: the doctor-to-patient ratio, hospital bed capacities and equipment, and the severe lack of hospitals in certain parts of the country.

The passage of the Universal Health Care Bill was commended since its enactment would ensure the access to quality health care without financial burden, bringing peace of mind to a lot of Filipinos.

The implementation of this bill was set to start in 2019. However, budget cuts to the Department of Health may hamper the expected implementation of the Universal Health Care Bill. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) slashed the program’s P30 billion budget to just P50 million since the DOH was unable to consume these allocated funds in the previous years.

Senators acknowledged that the budget cut would be a setback, but vowed that they will study and discuss restoration of the DOH budget since without enough funding, the ability of the DOH to provide health care services will be affected.