Duterte signs Universal Health Care law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 20) — Easier and equal access to health care may soon be provided to all Filipinos.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday led a ceremonial signing activity on all the bills he had enacted into law in the last few weeks.

Among them is the Universal Health Care bill, which he signed during the ceremony.

The bill aims to expand the coverage of Philhealth to all Filipinos both home and abroad, whether as indirect or direct contributors.

Philhealth coverage will also cover free diagnostic services, consultation fees, and medical tests.

Additional funds for Philhealth will be sourced from the charity fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, income from the Philippine Gaming Corporation, members' contributions, the national budget for the Department of Health, government subsidies, and sin tax collections.

However, with the bill on additional sin taxes on cigarettes still pending in Congress, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that funding for universal health care might be reduced.

"Pagkakasyahin muna natin until such time na dumating ang pondo … gradual ang implementation pero meron pa namang ano, there are many ways to augment resources," Panelo said in a press conference.

[Translation: We will work with available resources until more funds come … the implementation will be gradual.]

In separate statements, the two sponsors of the Universal Health Care in the Senate welcomed the passage of the bill.

"Hindi na mangangamba ang ating mga kababayan tuwing sila'y magkakasakit o sa mga pagkakataon na madapuan ng karamdaman ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay. Karamay na ang gobyerno sa gastusin at abot-kaya na ang pagpapagamot," said Senate Committee on Health Chairperson JV Ejercito.

[Translation: Filipinos will no longer worry when they or their loved ones get sick. The government will help them in their expenses and medicine is now accessible.]

Ejercito co-sponsored the bill with former Senate Committee on Health Chairperson Risa Hontiveros.

"Sa batas na ito, aking panalangin na wala nang Pilipino ang dapat maghirap dahil gusto lamang niyang maging malusog ang kanyang mga mahal sa buhay, wala nang magulang ang dapat papiliin kung kaya ba niyang iligtas ang kaniyang anak sa peligro ng karamdaman," Hontiveros said.

[Translation: I pray that with this law, Filipinos will no longer find it difficult to keep their loved ones healthy. Parents will no longer have to choose if they should save their children from sickness.]