Access to healthcare in the Philippines

Zosimo T. Literatus, R.M.T

THE latest published 2015 annual report from the Department of Health (DOH) may not be as recent as our corporate annual reports. However, it brought some good news on our healthcare access situation in the Philippines.

It reported the accomplishment of its national health insurance program: a coverage of 93.45 million of the 101.45 million projected population in 2015. That is an impressive 92 percent coverage, shy by eight percent of the desired universal healthcare coverage of Filipinos.

The data, however, demonstrated an abject situation of poverty in the Philippines.

Of the beneficiaries, 49 percent were indigents, who, in the Philippine legal glossary, mean Filipinos who have no visible source of income or a level of income that is adequate for daily family subsistence. This category of Philhealth members must come from the Listahan database of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

If our measure for poverty in the Philippines is the inadequate income for family subsistence, then our country has practically half of its people in the poverty level.

If we include sponsored membership as an indicator of inability to afford PhilHealth membership due to financial difficulties, our poverty line will reach 51 percent. And take note that there’s still eight percent with no PhilHealth coverage, which can bring the percentage to almost 60 percent.

While our healthcare access appeared commendable, though imperfect, the data expose to us the challenge of the 30 percent members of the formal economy to do something to help our brother and sister Filipinos out of poverty. This challenge, however, is difficult, considering the fact that even among members in the formal economy, financial security may not be a reality yet due to many factors from the peso’s purchasing power to the increasing competition in the local and national job markets. This line of thought then leads us to the ability of Philippine education to equip young Filipinos to compete in the job market.

Evidently, our poverty situation in the country is expectedly complex. Thus, the solution can be complex as well. However, if we look at our fellow Filipinos in the poverty line from the “solidarity” perspective of the Catholic Church, individual acts of generosity when performed by many (30 percent of 101 million is around 30 million) can chip off this poverty in our midst… gradually, perhaps, but certainly so.

Who says social issues have no relevance in public health?