PhilHealth pushes for higher sin taxes
The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) on Tuesday said higher taxes on so-called sin products were needed for people to fully enjoy the benefits of the newly signed universal health care (UHC) law which needed P22 billion more in funding.
Roy Ferrer, PhilHealth acting president and chief executive officer, expressed confidence that Congress would pass legislation increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol products for the UHC law.
“Not only will we get revenue from this but it will also help in protecting the health of the people,” Ferrer told reporters on Tuesday.
“There are so many diseases caused by tobacco and alcohol,” he said.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11223, or the Universal Health Care Act, which gives PhilHealth coverage to all Filipinos.
For the law to be fully implemented, the government needs a budget of P257 billion in the first year of implementation alone.
The government was able to pool only P217 billion for the program from its share in the income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., the charity fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and from contributions of PhilHealth members.
Though P18 billion was recently appropriated for UHC, the budget was still short of P22 billion, which was expected to come from higher sin taxes.
Source of funds
Nerissa Santiago, one of PhilHealth’s acting senior vice presidents, noted that the delivery of an effective UHC program will be hampered if the office could not get additional funding from higher sin taxes.
“The benefits we can give to the public will depend on the funding that will come in,” Santiago said.
“For example, if [higher] sin tax will be approved and will be implemented within the next several years, that will be good because the expansion of benefits can be given much sooner,” she said.
Among the benefits PhilHealth wanted to provide for more people is coverage for those undergoing dialysis.
It also wanted higher funding for primary care benefit package from the current P800 to P1,800 per family member.
Ferrer said PhilHealth wanted to strengthen the delivery of primary care in the country to prevent diseases which take a toll not only on families but on the health care system itself.
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