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Universal Healthcare Bill inches closer to becoming law

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By Xave Gregorio

The Universal Healthcare Bill is now closer to becoming a law after the Senate passed its version of the measure which would enroll all Filipinos, including Overseas Filipino Workers, to the National Health Insurance Program.

In a 14-0 vote, the Senate passed Senate Bill No. 1896 Wednesday (October 10), after being certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte on the same day.

“Sa ilalim ng Universal Health Care, ang bawat Pilipino ay hindi na kailangang mangamba sa tuwing sila o ang miyembro ng pamilya ay magkakasakit dahil aayusin at palalakasin natin ang pagbibigay ng serbisyo lalo na sa mga geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas,” said Senate health committee chair Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, who sponsored the measure.

“Hindi na po magiging problema ang gastos sa pagpapagamot dahil awtomatikong isasama at magiging miyembro ang bawat Pilipino ng PhilHealth,” Ejercito continued.

He added: “Hindi na din po isipin ang kakulangan ng mga doktor, nurse, at iba pang health workers dahil popondohan at pagtitibayin natin ang mga benepisyo para sa kanila.”

The measure would be funded from collections of the sin tax and sugar tax.

Under the bill, Filipinos’ health insurance coverage is expandedto include free consultation fees, laboratory tests and other diagnostic services. Filipinos may avail of these even without a PhilHealth identication card.

This bill also expands medical scholarships and requires graduates of health-related courses from state universites and colleges or government-funded scholarship programs to serve for at least three years in the public sector.

“Ito pong atas na ito ay isang reseta na lulunas sa maraming sakit ng ating sistemang pangkalusugan,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.

The bill would now move to the bicameral conference committee which would reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions. It would be up for Duterte’s signature afterwards.