In line with the signing into law of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act last 20 February 2019, and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) taking effect in November of the same year, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has begun implementing various reforms in health financing such as: increases in the premium schedule; updated eligibility requirements to avail benefits; and, a new primary care package. However, efforts have been put into halt due to the onset of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus which brought the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The COVID-19 crisis has also highlighted several challenges to health financing reform in the Philippines. Among them are increased demands from consumers, new regulatory mechanisms for service providers to navigate, and increased demands on the system overall to provide a social safety net.
During the consultation, research highlights from key informant interviews on perceptions surrounding UHC have been discussed. First and foremost, respondents agree that UHC is conceptually attractive. However, doubts regarding its implementation persist due to prior negative experiences with the health system and mistrust stemming from the current controversies. Concepts surrounding healthcare and health insurance are poorly understood and there are significant gap levels of awareness and understanding regarding specific provisions of UHC. When presented with the IRR provisions of UHC, respondents became confused with regard to the benefits, premium contributions, and availment. The respondents also expressed difficulty in navigating the healthcare system and obtaining information from PhilHealth. Informal and community driven communication channels were effective in disseminating information and engaging audiences. Lastly, due to lack of regular and visible communication from PhilHealth, members seek information from other sources who may or may not be accurate. At the same time, respondents expressed concern regarding stability of the fund and the need for greater transparency.
Basically, a call for a strengthened communication strategy and framework was echoed during the consultation. ECOP was identified as one of the key stakeholders in the implementation of the said law. As the sole voice of Filipino employers across the country, ECOP emphasized on the need for a clear communication to employers regarding their role and responsibilities in the roll-out of the UHC Act. The spirit of tripartism is much needed so as to ensure strong coordination and collaboration to facilitate a smooth information dissemination among employers and workers. ECOP suggests the conduct of webinars with PhilHealth officials will be very useful. Moreover, ECOP also highlighted on the issue regarding the increase in premium contributions, emphasizing on the need to gather business leaders and industry champions before implementing any decision.
The virtual consultation was held via the Zoom platform on 23 September 2020. ECOP was represented by Advocacy and Research Associate Ms. Jhoyzel Nacisvalencia.
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