Universal Health Care fund issue being addressed — Romualdez

Martin Romualdez and Diosdado Peralta
HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep.Martin Romualdez (right) discusses with Supreme Court Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta (left) the P55.66 billion judiciary proposed budget for 2020 during the budget briefing at the House of Representatives. Hearings on various departments’ budget proposal continue in the lower chamber. Photo by Ver Noveno

HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez yesterday assured the public that the House leadership has been working very hard to address the funding gap in the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law.

Romualdez, who chairs the House committee on rules, gave the assurance after the House of Representatives recently approved on third and final reading the proposed law on additional excise taxes on alcohol products, heated tobacco and vapor products.

“Speaker [Alan Peter] Cayetano tasked us to address the funding gap for the implementation of the Universal Health Care law to provide affordable and better health care service for Filipinos. This is also our commitment to President Duterte’s better health care service for Filipinos,” said Romualdez on the measure, which is part of the Package 2 Plus B of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP).

Romualdez said “health is a basic right” and President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte “will work to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”

“The government is adopting an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which will make essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost,” Romualdez stressed.

During the House Committee on Appropriations hearing yesterday, Health Secretary Francisco 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, disappointing opposition lawmakers led by House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante.

“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,” Duque added.

Earlier, the DOH said it would need P257 billion for the first year of implementation of the UHC law.

In next year’s national budget, the UHC law has P67.4 billion for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and P92.2 billion for the DOH to strengthen its implementation.

Also in the same hearing, House senior Deputy Minority Leader and Iloilo Rep.  Janette Garin hit Duque after he said there was not a single incident that the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) recalled the certificate of product registration (CPR) when this issue has been used to stop the Dengvaxia vaccine.

“There has been no product recall on the basis of deficient document submission and that the basis for product recall is actually adverse findings on the product itself, concerning the product. That is why we have surveillance of these products precisely to monitor through pharmacovigilance the status of that product once it has been introduced in the market,” said Duque.

Garin recalled that Dengvaxia vaccine was recalled in December 2017 due to “continued failure” to submit post-marketing surveillance report.

“So ang sagot n’yo po sa buong history ng Pilipinas, wala pa pong produkto na kulang ng papeles, this runs counter to what you are doing to the dengue vaccine,” said Garin.

Garin also questioned Duque over the FDA’s expeditious granting of license to the Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccine, contradicting his statement that it took four months for the vaccine to be certified.

“Your Honor, I really respect the DOH, Tingin ko, you are very good friend of mine and we worked together pero hindi ko po malunok na sasagutin ako ng apat na buwan because I have here the documents. I have here all the attachments. The vaccine was licensed within a span of five days,” said Garin.

“I would like DOH to move forward, pero ‘di naman puwede na ang sagot sa atin ay hindi totoo. After all, how can we help the department. This is documented, it is five days from the first day of submission to the issuance of the certificate of product registration (for) Japanese encephalitis for the DOH program and now you are telling me it is four months,” Garin added.

This prompted Duque to apologize to the committee, claiming there are certain operational issues in the department that he failed to monitor.

“[There are] certain operational issues I don’t get closely monitored and so my apologies, you have the documents. I will identify accountable officers to make sure that the information that is fed to me is actually accurate,” said Duque.