In his interpellation of the DOH’s budget for 2021, Sen. Lacson stressed the need to find sources of funds to properly implement the Universal Health Care program. “We passed RA 11223 in February 2019, and it is our obligation as lawmakers to see to it that the law is implemented properly.“
UHC Budget Requirements:
For 2021, the proposed budget for UHC is P203.1B under the NEP, including:
* P71.4B for NHIP/PhilHealth
* P17.3B for Assistance to Indigent Patients
* P16.6B for Human Resources for Health Program
* P4.8B for Health Facilities Enhancement Program
* P2.7B for procurement of PPE
* P1B for provision for COVID19 vaccine
* P1B for purchase of GeneXpert cartridges
* P500M for provision for COVID19 surveillance
“Considering under the NEP, P231B lang ang nilagay for UHC, It barely reaches medium cost estimate for 2021 which is at P254B kung sa medium cost na tayo,” Sen. Lacson remarked, as he noted that the Medium Cost Estimate for UHC for 2021 is at P254.43B but the GAB for 2021 provides only P215.07B and the Senate committee report provides only P227.25B.
Lagging Behind in Implementation:
While the UHC program is due to get some P101B from sin taxes in 2019, at least P17B from Pagcor has yet to be released due to the lack of implementing guidelines. “How can we implement the UHC with great efficacy and desirable coverage in 2021, kasi napakababa ng allocation?” Sen. Lacson asked, adding even the P227.25B in the Senate committee report on the proposed 2021 budget falls way short of the P254B requirement.
Sen. Lacson added this is just the medium cost estimate, and does not yet include allocations for DOH hospitals. Instead, it will only cover the building of new barangay health stations (BHS) in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) barangays, and the establishment of new RHUs in 4th to 6th-class municipalities. “So we are really lagging behind in terms of implementation of UHC. That is a great concern because we are in the midst of a great pandemic,” he said.
Also, he pointed out the funding for HFEP under the 2020 budget at P8.404B is significantly higher than the 2021 proposed budget under NEP at P4.7B. It was also subjected to ‘For Later Release,’ with P88 million still being withheld.
He noted that under the medium cost estimate, government should build one BHS per GIDA barangays, and RHUs in 4th- to 6th-class municipalities. “(Dito) walang papasok na private sector diyan to invest. Government will have to practically cover practically 100% of the deficits in those areas… Kailangan talaga ng pondo rito.“
On the other hand, Sen. Lacson cited the need for added funds to compensate for the lower HFEP allocations for 2021, citing a gap of at least P13 billion.
No Operational Guidelines, No Fund Release:
Sen. Lacson lamented that while Sec 37 of the UHC Law provides that 50% of national government share from the income of Pagcor and 40% from the charity fund of PCSO collections shall be used as sources of funds in the implementation of the UHC program, the funds cannot be released as there are still no operational guidelines. In 2019, Pagcor remitted P35.46B via the Bureau of Treasury, with P17.73B due the UHC program. But the DOH is still finishing the operational guidelines. “What is the status of the operational guidelines? DOH is the one in charge in issuing the operational guidelines. That’s why BTr cannot yet remit P17.73B, that’s only for Pagcor. When can you finish the crafting of the operational guidelines?” he asked.
“Walang nire-remit kasi walang guidelines. They are waiting for DOH to finish the operational guidelines so they can remit the amount for UHC,” he added.