ADRi vTHD: “Towards A Healthier Philippines: UHC Watch Launch”

In February 2019, the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law or Republic Act No. 11223 was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. This landmark legislation expands access to health services by automatically enrolling all Filipinos in the National Health Insurance Program, with the aim to provide equitable access to quality and affordable health care services while being protected against financial risk.

In a little over a year, COVID-19 was declared as a global pandemic which has severely affected the global economy and overwhelmed health systems in many countries, including some of the world’s wealthiest nations. In the Philippines, it has exposed the severe gaps in both public health infrastructure and national health policies. Moreover, it has also highlighted the country’s fragmented governance and the lack of healthcare facilities and health human resources in the country.

The Philippine government’s pandemic response lagged behind neighboring countries and it greatly underestimated the virus. A recent study conducted by Australian think tank Lowy Institute ranked the country 79th out of 98 nations for its pandemic response. Southeast Asian neighbors Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar fared better on the list, while only Indonesia ranked lower than the Philippines. Despite having the longest and strictest lockdown in the subregion, there was a delay in conducting tests and contact tracing in the country.

The pandemic emphasized the importance of having a resilient health system to ensure universal health coverage for all people. Reforming the current health system is necessary in order to expand financial protection and increase access to health services of every Filipinos. The transformation of the health system to achieve a sincere universal healthcare will entail serious investments from the government and constant participation from different stakeholders. Adopting a whole-of-society and people-centered approach is vital to improve overall health system performance.

With the launch of the UHC Watch, one of its goals is to initiate a constituency led advocacy to raise awareness on the urgent need to implement the UHC Law. Additionally, it will support legislation, policies, and regulations that will further aid the attainment of universal health care for all Filipinos. Through the UHC Watch, the call for a responsive policy and good governance to create a strong and resilient health system will be imperative.

A whole-of-society approach that targets all factors of health will need the participation and support of various stakeholders. Transparency and accountability on the implementation of the UHC Law to provide access to affordable and quality health care given the limited resources of the country is likewise essential to gain the trust and confidence of the public. With the participation of government agencies, civil society groups, and the private sector, the launch of the UHC Watch will reinforce the call for the execution of the Law to deliver much-needed health care services to all Filipinos.

Program

Welcoming Remarks
Mr. Francesco “Paco” A. Pangalangan
Executive Director, Stratbase ADR Institute

Speakers

What is Universal Health Care? The Patient Perspective
Ms. Ma. Fatima “Girlie” Garcia-Lorenzo
President, Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations

Addressing the challenges in the health care system: Expectations of Filipino Consumers
Prof. Louie Montemar
Convenor, Bantay Konsyumer, Kalsada, Kuryente (BK3)

How the health system should prepare to prevent the next pandemic: The COVID-19 Experiences of Cancer Patients
Mr. Paul Perez
President, Cancer Coalition Philippines

The Legislative Journey towards Universal Health Care Law
Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan
Former Secretary of Health;
Board Member, Health Justice Philippines

The role of multi-stakeholder collaborations in achieving UHC
Mr. Orlando Oxales
Convenor, CitizenWatch Philippines

Reactors

Dr. Mario C. Villaverde
Undersecretary for Health Policy and Systems Development Team,
Department of Health

Hon. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito
Former Senator of the Philippines

Declaration of the UHC Watch Manifesto and Affirmation of Stakeholders

Closing Remarks
Mr. Francesco “Paco” A. Pangalangan
Executive Director, Stratbase ADR Institute

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