‘Shape up or ship out,’ health officials told over UHC issue

September 01, 2019

A HOUSE leader on Sunday sought to convene the congressional oversight panel on health as he told the country’s health officials led by Secretary Francisco Duque III to “shape up or ship out” for their supposed failure to provide better health care services for Filipinos.

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, who chairs the House Committee on Ways and Means, was dismayed after Duque admitted during a budget hearing by the House Committee on Appropriations last week that the Department of Health (DoH) is not prepared for a nationwide rollout of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law.

“Partial Universal Health Care law pala, hindi Universal Health Care,” Salceda told House reporters in a Viber thread following his disappointment with the continued deteriorating health care services in the country. “Ano ang achievements nila at ano ang contribution to nation building?”

“[They should] shape up or ship out. [The] House should convene the oversight committee on UHC and look after the [country’s] state of health. Incredibly DoH and PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation) should see a doctor,” Salceda warned in berating health officials, apparently referring to the failing health or dismal performance of the DoH.

“Iyung hindi ka mag-national rollout [of UHC law] reflects lack of commitment and dysfunctional worldview more than budget woes, which is a convenient alibi,” Salceda pointed out.

Iloilo Rep. Janette Loreto-Garin, a former Health secretary, said that budget cuts for poor-performing agencies and public programs, especially those involving the public health, only deprive the people of much-needed services and leave them to suffer when it is the particular government office itself that is to blame.

“We are punishing the people who will ultimately feel the brunt of an unfunded government services,” said Garin. “Because what is the purpose of the Universal Health Care if the basis of fund release is the previous utilization? Just look at PhilHealth. It is experiencing the opposite of budget cuts because of good fund utilization. Ang taas ng utilization at ang bilis ng release ng pera, but we are now discovering it may be because of fraudulent claims.”

“Are we going to keep PhilHealth operating as it should, while we cut down on important health programs? It really defeats the purpose of Universal Health Care,” Garin lamented.

During the appropriations committee hearing last Wednesday, Duque admitted that there will be no nationwide implementation of UHC law in 2020 because of lack of readiness and budgetary constraints.

“The strategic readiness of the DoH in the implementation of the Universal Health Care, year one is 2020, and it is a progressive realization [that] it cannot be a national rollout,” said Duque. “We cannot do a national rollout because of budgetary constraints and also because of the readiness. We need to do capacity building in the different provinces, who under the law will be the convergence points of integration.”

This prompted House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez to assure the public that the House leadership has been working very hard to address the funding gap in the UHC law implementation.

Romualdez, who chairs the House Committee on Rules, said the House of Representatives has been working very hard to approve possible revenue generating measures such as the recent passage on third and final reading of the proposed law on additional excise taxes on alcohol products, heated tobacco and vapor products.