Former legislator Erin Tañada on Friday batted for the passage of the twin measures of expanded universal health care and increased tobacco tax so that Filipinos will spend less on health.
Filipinos’ out-of-pocket spending for health is still high even as government funds for health increased from 29.7% in 2014 to 34.2% in 2016, the Partido Liberal vice president for external affairs pointed out.
Citing figures from the Philippine National Health Accounts (PNHA), Tañada said out-of-pocket spending accounted for 54.2% of total spending for health in 2016 compared to 55.7% in 2014.
“Para mapakinabangan ng mga Pilipino ang pagtaas sa badyet na nakalaan para sa kalusugan, kailangang ipasa na ang magkakambal na panukalang batas na magpapalawak sa sakop ng PhilHealth benefits at magtatalaga ng pagmumulan ng pondo para rito,” he said in a statement.
Expanded PhilHealth benefits will cover access to free consultation, laboratory, and medicines that patients need and usually cost a lot. To fund this, tobacco tax must be increased. “The two go hand in hand,” Tañada added, as he urged Senator Sonny Angara to take up the latter before the session ends in October.
The Senate is already deliberating the expanded universal health care bill, Senate Bill 1896, in plenary, awaiting approval on second and third reading, while the House of Representatives already passed its own version, House Bill 5784.
From the fund supply end, the House of Representatives has already approved the increased tobacco tax bill, House Bill 4144, while Senators Manny Pacquiao and JV Ejercito have filed separate bills, but Senator Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means, has yet to tackle them.
“The tobacco tax bills are still pending and all that Senator Angara needs to do is to convene the ways and means committee to tackle these. The proposals are complementary measures so that the benefits from the universal health care will be fully enjoyed by the people,” Tañada said.
Tañada is one of the authors of Republic Act 10606 which amended PhilHealth’s Charter that expanded the payment of premium for the poor and instituted reforms as safeguards against corruption and abuse.