MANILA, Philippines – If elected, the tandem of Rodrigo Duterte and Alan Peter Cayetano will require all hospitals in the country to have a facility for treating very poor patients, with the government footing the bill.
Duterte said this during a dialogue with urban poor women in Pasay City, accompanied by Cayetano on Wednesday, February 24.
“Kailangan maglagay sila ng libreng sampu [na kama], tapos, pasok kayo. Sabihin mo lang sa doktor anong sakit mo, ‘Eh hanapan mo ako ng sakit basta libre,’” he told 6 women who live in an impoverished village in Pasay City.
(Hospitals need to put 10 free beds and then you go in. Just tell the doctor what your aliment is, "Tell me what I am sick of as long as the check-up is free.")
Yesterday: #Duterte tells urban poor women in Pasay about his health program for the poor if elected. #PHVote pic.twitter.com/iBV6u1gmtc — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) February 25, 2016
Later that day, Duterte elaborated: “I will mandate that there should be a law, irrespective of whether you are a 5-star, 4-star, 1-star hospital, you must provide a facility for the indigents. Not really indigents because I will pay. When a person enters, you need to help them, cure them, operate on them. I will pay.”
The facility, he said, would take the form of a room or area where a certain number of patients' beds and the corresponding health services for the patient, will be paid for by the government.
“It should be a ratio and proportion. If it’s a big hospital you might provide 30 [beds], not so big, 20, small, 10. Gamutin ninyo, bigyan ninyo ng gamot, bayarin ako. Maraming pera ang gobyerno e di ubusan ko ang bayad niyan,” he said.
(Cure them, give them medicine, I will pay. The government has a lot of money so I will use it to pay.)
'The money is there'
The Duterte-Cayetano tandem said the government has enough money to pay for this health program.
“First of all, the money is there. The P50 billion a year which we want audited from Sin Taxes, because they promised us senators and congressmen primary health, mobile clinics, mobile X-ray. They promised us regional and provincial hospitals. Number two, PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation) has so much reserves, hundreds of billions,” said Cayetano.
Duterte adds to platform: Mandatory health facilities for the poor in all hospitals in PH paid for by gov't. #PHVote pic.twitter.com/B8CU65sVJD — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) February 24, 2016
According to PhilHealth, its total reserve fund as of 2014 was P117 billion. By law, PhilHealth is required to maintain a reserve fund as a buffer. But in the past, lawmakers have questioned the large amount the reserve fund has ballooned into.
In 2011 for instance, Senator Franklin Drilon questioned why the agency's reserve fund at the time was 3 times the level required by law.
The government estimated that revenue from sin tax would amount to P42.9 billion in 2015.
According to the Sin Tax law, revenues generated should go to programs promoting alternative livelihood for tobacco farmers and workers, universal health care under PhilHealth, and “medical assistance and health enhancement facilities programs” to be determined by the Department of Health.
In his proclamation rally, Duterte said health services will be his 3rd top budget priority if elected president. The first two are agriculture and education.
Myrla Magno, a young mother 5 months pregnant when she listened to Duterte in Pasay City, said she appreciates the presidential candidate's proposal.
"Maganda yung [sinabi] niya na para sa mahirap na tulong sa ospital. Hindi lang siya para sa mayaman, para rin siya sa mga mahihirap," she told Rappler.
[What he said was good, giving the poor assistance in the hospital. He is not just for the rich, he is also for the poor.]
Unsurprisingly, she liked best the idea of free birthing services for the poor.
During the dialogue, Duterte also explained Davao City's program of paying for the tubal ligation of poor women.
He has said in previous statements that, if elected, he will "insist on family planning" as a poverty-alleviating measure. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.