Senate approves Malasakit Center bill on final reading

MANILA, Philippines – The bill institutionalizing Malasakit Centers in Department of Health-run hospitals, as well as the Philippine General Hospital, hurdled the Senate on Monday, November 11.

Senators voted 18-0 in favor of Senate Bill No. 1076 or the proposed Malasakit Center Act of 2019 on 3rd and final reading.

The bill was authored by Senator Bong Go, who had been accused of using Malasakit Centers to promote his candidacy in the May 2019 elections. (READ: Asked to explain Malasakit Centers, Bong Go ridicules Lagman's looks instead)

The measure aims to consolidate the assistance provided by the health and social welfare departments, as well as the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), in a "one-stop shop" at hospitals.

"We are a step closer towards making quality health care more accessible and affordable for all Filipinos, especially the indigent and poor patients in need of medical assistance from the government," Go said in a speech after the bill was approved.

Under the approved measure, local governments may also establish their own Malasakit Center, as long as they provide the funds for its operations.

Among the Malasakit Center's proposed functions would be to provide patients with referrals to health care provider networks, as well as information on membership, coverage, and benefit packages in the National Health Insurance Program.

If the bill hurdles the House of Representatives and gets President Rodrigo Duterte's signature, Malasakit Centers' operational expenses would be included in the national budget.

At the House of Representatives, the counterpart bill has been approved in the committee level.

The Malasakit Centers played a role in increasing Go's visibility even prior to his senatorial bid.

Currently, there are 50 centers around the country. These are under the Individual Medical Assistance Program of the PCSO. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.