‘Usapang Dibdiban’ webinar tackles Universal Health Care
PASIG CITY, July 5 (PIA) — More than 100 days since the start of the community quarantine due to the threat posed by COVID-19, several online discussions on strengthening tuberculosis (TB) response amid COVID-19 have been conducted by the Department of Health (DOH) and the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID), through its TB Platforms for Sustainable Detection, Care and Treatment Project.
Recently, local chief executives, health and information officers from Regions 3 and 4-A, Marawi, and the National Capital Region (NCR) participated in the first-ever webinar on Universal Health Care (UHC) Act jointly conducted by DOH and USAID’s TB Platforms Project, with support from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP).
Dubbed as “Usapang Dibdiban on UHC Act: What Local Chief Executives should Know and Expect,” the webinar gathered experts and resource persons and explained the objectives of the law and its implementation challenges.
]Ms. Bryn Sakagawa, Director of the USAID’s Office of Health, in her welcome remarks, expressed her gratitude for the multi-stakeholder collaboration for TB and COVID-19 response. She reiterated that for decades, the United States Government has always been the world’s largest provider of technical assistance for public health.
“For 20 years now, USAID has provided P30 billion for the Philippine health sector to realize its national development goals. For 2018-2022, USAID is investing more than P3 billion to support the National TB Control Program and help DOH reduce the number of TB cases,” Sakagawa said adding that TB is the 6th leading cause of death in the Philippines.
Sakagawa’s discussion focused on TB as an important tracer disease to measure the success of the UHC implementation.
“COVID-19 limited our access to so many important services but let us not lose track of how to provide affordable health services to the most vulnerable and marginalized sector.”
DOH Special Assistant to the Secretary for UHC and OIC-Director for Health Promotion and Communication Services, Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho and Former DOH Secretary Paulyn Ubial presented how the landmark law will help expand access to health services.
“UHC automatically enrolls all Filipinos in the country in the National Health Insurance Program. It seeks to ensure that all Filipinos have access to comprehensive health services,” Dr. Ho explained. She also said that the UHC is an integrated approach that ensures health literacy, healthy living and protection from hazards and risks.
Likewise, former health secretary Ubial reiterated the “whole of system, whole of government in the development of health policies.” Ubial enumerated how the government will appropriate funds for the implementation of UHC. She highlighted that the funds will come from the total incremental sin tax collections, 50 percent of the national government share from PAGCOR, 40 percent of the Charity Fund, premium contributions of members, annual appropriation of the DOH, national government subsidy to PhilHealth, and supplemental funding.
Principal author of the UHC Act (Republic Act 11223), former Senator JV Ejercito, was one of the resource persons in the webinar. Ejercito mentioned that he understands the concerns of local chief executives in the implementation of the UHC.
“I was once a Mayor of San Juan. I know how it feels to be burdened of finding ways and means to provide health services to our constituents. Rest assured that during the deliberations before the passage of UHC, we have looked into your concerns and there are ways those issues,” said the former senator.
Ejercito expressed his gratitude for holding the webinar. “I am glad to be invited in this webinar and hear overwhelming support as well as learn about pending issues. This only means that we are finding ways to respond not only to this challenging pandemic and tuberculosis, but on the larger context of the health system,” Ejercito cited.
The Universal Health Care Law was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 20, 2019.
Meanwhile, PhilHealth Senior Vice-President Israel Francis Pargas answered queries from governors and mayors present during the webinar. Most of their inquiries were about the PhilHealth capitation fund share of LGUs and issues related to the health care provider networks.
Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas, on the hand, presented the roles and responsibilities of the provincial health board and how UHC act will be able to support municipalities and cities to launch strengthened health policies for both TB and COVID-19. Batangas Province is one the dynamic partners of DOH and USAID for both TB and COVID-19 response.
Quirino Governor and ULAP President Dakila Carlo Cua expressed his gratitude to Sen. JV Ejercito for sponsoring a landmark act that he believes will also empower LGUs to promote better health system and services.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank DOH, USAID, PhilHealth and even DILG especially those who are present here for conducting this very relevant webinar in the midst of COVID-19. We would like to announce also that ULAP is partnering with USAID’s TB Platforms in its endeavor to encourage the active participation of local chief executives in the implementation of UHC for a more sustainable TB response especially during this pandemic,” Governor Cua expressed.
ULAP, being the umbrella organization of all leagues of LGUs and locally elected officials, committed to continue the ‘USAPANG DIBDIBAN’ to further discuss how the UHC implementation will be able to support TB response during this pandemic and beyond.
Other panelists during the webinar include Carmona Mayor Roy Loyola, Infanta Mayor Filipina Grace America, Tarlac Mayor Estelita Aquino, and Magallanes Mayor Maligaya-Bautista.
USAID’s TB Platforms Dr. Marianne Calnan along with Dr. David Lozada Jr., Sustainable Finance and Partnerships Specialist and Ms. Lilian de Leon, Health Governance Specialist thanked the 215 online participants composed of leading governors and mayors from TB Platforms demonstration sites. The project team will continue to work with DOH NTP to address the issues raised by the local chief executives moving forward. ULAP President and Gov. Dakila Cua committed to support further discussions with government agencies and other stakeholders.
USAID’s TB Platforms also expressed gratitude to the Philippine Information Agency for being its primary media partner for the webinar series. Diwata de Castro-Paredes, the project’s Social and Behavior Change Communication Specialist continues to work with PIA for communication and media outreach promoting the importance of partnerships for sustainable TB response amid COVID-19. Present during the webinar were PIA-Central Luzon Assistant Regional Director Carlo Lorenzo Datu, PIA-Calabarzon’s Carlo Gonzaga, and representatives from PIA-NCR.
The webinar was also presented live streaming via NTP Philippines Facebook page and still remains accessible for the public to learn about Universal Health Care implementation. (PIA-NCR)