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Can the Philippines implement national membership programmes in its UHC push?

The private sector can be tapped for its extensive expertise in delivering high-quality care.

As the Philippines explores ways to implement universal healthcare, Dr. Arturo S. De La Peña, president & CEO of St. Luke’s Medical Center, discusses the role of the private sector in turning the systematic change into reality and the possible membership models for the country’s national healthcare programmes.

HCA: How can the Philippines implement universal healthcare?

Universal healthcare law is a good law because it provides access for every Filipino. But the implementation of rules and regulations should be well-crafted. Based on the universal healthcare law, there would be two types of members to healthcare programmes, the non-contributing members and the contributing members. Basically, the non-contributing members should have no balance billing. Most of them will go to government hospitals.

Also readAre Philippine hospitals ready for universal healthcare?

But the contributing members can go anywhere else, but they should have balance billing. Meaning to say, the government will shoulder a certain amount and the rest will either be out-of-pocket, supported by private insurance, supported by whatever they can arrange. Moreover, there’s a shift towards more out-patient procedures. 

The very big question is: Is the national health organisation, the Department of Health, ready to handle the influx of a lot of patients to the hospitals because as of now, the ratio for patient beds is about one or little less than 2 beds per 100 patient population. There should be a lot of investment in the infrastructure, especially from the government’s side, to be able to handle these large influx of patients who would go to the hospital seeking healthcare.

HCA: What are your thoughts on the issue that was raised that the government can’t do it alone?
Certainly, as a general rule in life, nobody can stand alone and this is very true whether in governance, in government, or in private sector. You see, in terms of specialties in terms of so many other things, the government does not have all of the expertise needed. 

They can tap into the expertise of the private sector to be able to deliver high quality of care to the patients. 

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