The Universal Healthcare (UHC) Bill was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, July 9.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte arrived at the decision during a cabinet meeting in Malacañang.
The Senate and House of Representatives can only vote on the third and final reading on any bill that they have passed on the second reading after copies of the proposed measure are given to lawmakers at least three days prior the date of final voting. This rule, however, can be dispensed for bills that are certified as urgent by the president.
Roque, in a news briefing in Indang on Tuesday, July 10, welcomed the certification of the bill.
“Under this proposed law we seek to provide for the right to health by providing primary care to all Filipinos. This will give free healthcare and free medicines to all Filipinos,” he said.
According to Roque, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will be replaced and will become the “national purchaser of health services.
“The PhilHealth will be replaced, its new name will be the PhilHealth Security Corp., which will give medical insurance,” he said.
He also shed light on the importance of barangay (village) health workers in the implementation of the law, saying that “they are the gatekeepers. They are the first contact of patients, along with the community nurses and midwives.”
“Here, in barangay health centers, they will decide if the patients will be sent to specialists or to hospitals,” Roque added.
The UHC bill is one of the 28 bills in the Duterte administration’s legislative agenda.
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, who heads the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, expressed confidence that the bill would be passed by the Senate when 17th Congress convenes for its third and final session this month.
He also noted that the increasing prices of basic goods made the passage of the bill more crucial in giving Filipinos access to quality health care.
“With the prices of fuel, transportation, and basic goods skyrocketing, the passage of this bill will mean a lot to Filipino families in terms of improving their quality of life,” Ejercito said.
About 91 percent or around 93 million Filipinos were covered by PhilHealth as of 2016, and about half of them were indigents, while the rest were paying individuals and lifetime members.