The Healthy Philippines Alliance (HPA), a network of civil society organizations advocating for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) prevention and control, called on the national government to accelerate the implementation of Republic Act No. 11223 or the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law and fulfill its funding commitments, which must integrate health promotion, disease prevention, and care for people living with NCDs.
“We urge President Marcos Jr. to increase government investment in NCD prevention and control in order to achieve UHC. We can succeed at this by addressing the NCD risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, and unhealthy diet, encouraging and providing Filipinos primary health care services, and deploying community health promoters,” said Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, former Health Secretary, and a member of the HPA.
The HPA further pressed on the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to address funding delays and hasten the delivery of UHC services that will reduce inequities and close the health care gap, especially for patients with NCDs or chronic illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
“Health care is expensive and can drive poor patients deeper into poverty, more so for those living with NCDs who require long-term treatments. If the UHC law is effectively enforced the soonest possible time, it will greatly ease the financial burden to patients by allowing access to quality, yet, cost-effective health services,” said Karen Villanueva, President of the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO), also a member of the HPA.
The HPA highlighted that NCDs accounts for 512,000 deaths or 70% of all deaths in the Philippines and its economic burden to the country is estimated at PHP 756.5 billion per year or equivalent to 4.8% of the country’s annual GDP, based on the 2019 report from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Worldwide, 41 million people die from NCDs each year, which is 74% of all deaths, while the global economic toll of the five leading NCDs — cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes, and mental health and neurological conditions — costs more than US$ 2 trillion every year, according to estimates by the NCD Alliance.
“Delays in the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law aggravates social injustice. Health should be an utmost priority as wellness is critical to nation-building. It is imperative to invest in health care to provide accessible and affordable quality care as these are vital in creating a resilient citizenry,” said Alyannah Lagasca, National Chairperson of Youth for Mental Health Coalition (Y4MH), an HPA member.
Lagasca continued, “To ensure that no one gets left behind, inclusion of NCD prevention and treatment interventions in the UHC benefit packages is a must. This could improve the help-seeking behavior of Filipinos and encourage individuals with lived mental health conditions to pursue treatment. We call on the urgent action of our government in implementing the UHC Law, as each Filipino deserves a right to health.”
The law, passed in 2019, provides that, upon automatic enrollment to PhilHealth’s National Health Insurance Program, UHC services expands to the entire population where every Filipino is eligible to “preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative” care.
Funding for the UHC program will be sourced from sin tax collections in adherence to Republic Act No. 10351 or the Sin Tax Law; 50% of the national government’s share from the income of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor); 40% of the charity fund from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO); and the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
In line with this, the HPA also joins the NCD Alliance in the Global Week for Action on NCDs which coincides with the United Nations High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Universal Health Coverage that will take place in New York, USA on the 21st of September. World leaders of member nations are expected to forge a unified stance to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030.
Contact Persons :
Media Consultant, HPA