President Duterte signs the Universal Health Care Act into law

Universal Health Care Act
President Duterte signs the Universal Health Care Act.

President Duterte has signed the Universal Health Care Act into law which will bring all Filipinos under the government’s health insurance programme.

The president signed the landmark legislation during a ceremony at the Malacañan Palace yesterday (Wednesday, February 20). 

He said: “By automatically enrolling our citizens into the National Health Insurance Program and expanding PhilHealth coverage to include free medical consultations and laboratory tests, the Universal Healthcare Law that I signed today will guarantee equitable access to quality and affordable healthcare services for all Filipinos.” 

Under the legislation, all Filipino citizens, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), will be enrolled into PhilHealth, which will have its coverage expanded to include free consultation fees, laboratory tests and other diagnostic services.

It also aims to improve doctor-to-patient ratio, upgrade hospital bed capacities and establish more hospitals in remote areas.

It is unclear how the new act will affect the premiums paid by foreigners living in the Philippines.

Earlier, the president had certified the measure as “urgent”. Once the law is released, concerned agencies will draft implementing rules and regulations.

Earlier, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the programme will be implemented “gradually” because Congress has yet to draft a final bill raising tobacco taxes.

In the meantime, Panelo said the programme would have to make do with a 3.8 trillion peso budget for 2019.

“I’m sure our government will know how to source funds in accordance with the Constitution,” he added.

The World Health Organisation has welcomed the signing of the act describing it as a “critical step towards health for all Filipinos”.

“The World Health Organization welcomes this development as it is excellent proof of commitment to improving access to high quality health services at the least cost to families,” it in a statement. “We commend the Philippines for taking this step in the right direction.”

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