Monday, July 11, 2011

40 percent of population covered by expanded health coverage bill

July 11, 2011, 6:04pm

Original Article at:

MANILA, Philippines — At least 40 percent of the country’s 94 million population will be covered by medical care under a bill seeking to expand the coverage of medical benefits extended by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.

Authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and several other administration and opposition solons, House Bill 4150 is expected to be passed on third and final reading after the resumption of session of Congress on July 25.

HB 4150 consolidates a number of bills seeking to amend Republic Act 7875 or the National Health Insurance Act of 1995.

Belmonte said the proposal is in line with the policy of the government to adopt a comprehensive approach to health development and to see to it that basic goods, health and social services are available to all people at affordable cost.

He said the measure expands the coverage of the national health insurance as embodied in RA 7875. The bill will make available to all citizens affordable and accessible health care coverage. Access to health care remains to be a problem particularly for the poor sectors of society.

“The objective of the bill is to make sure that the identified indigents would be subsidized by the government and the next poorest of the poor subsidized by the local government units (LGUs),” Belmonte said.

The bill provides for the Philhealth coverage of the poorest 20 percent of the Philippine population as identified through a means test, and payment of their premium contributions, which will be subsidized by the government through the Department of Health (DoH).

The bill will also identify the poorest 20 percent of the population that will be subsidized by LGUs.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, co-author of the bill, said the measure aims to establish a roadmap towards universal health care through a refocused and strengthened Philhealth.

“It recognizes the fact that LGUs have insufficient fund sources, thus compromising the health care services that should be availed of by the poorest of the poor,” Gonzales said.

Rep. Alfredo Marañon III (NPC, Negros Occidental), chairman of the House Committee on Health, said the Philhealth program will cover street hawkers, market vendors, pedicab and tricycle drivers, small construction workers and home-based industries and services.

The bill defines an indigent as a person who has no visible means of income, or whose income is insufficient for the subsistence of his family based on specific criteria set by the national government in accordance with the guiding principles set forth in Article I of the law.

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