WHO Country Representative Gundo Weiler says the agency will also support calls for raising tobacco taxes from P32.50 to P90
MANILA, Philippines – World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative Gundo Weiler urged the Philippine Government to "make a real investment" on the health of the Philippines by ensuring funding for the implementation of universal health care (UHC) after the adoption of the law.
Weiler said that UHC is a "route" for countries that save lives, improve human health and protect the population economically from the high cost of healthcare.
"It's clear that UHC will not come for free, it's a real investment, and it's an investment that generates great returns," Weiler said at a press conference at the Ministry of Health (DOH) on Monday, November 5.
He added: "Let's be clear about it, because it has a huge income for the health of the population. We save lives by the UHC law, but also the population has economic benefits."
Weiler noted that despite the best efforts currently being made in the country, deficiencies in access to health services remain true in the Philippines.
"There are still people in the Philippines who are in poverty because of the cost of healthcare services, and the UHC law is really ready to deal with these two important factors: ensuring that everyone has access to services and improves the financial protection of the population," he said.
According to the Department of Health, some P257 billion will be needed to implement healthcare reforms when it first implements the UHC law.
But Francisco Duque, General Secretary for Healthcare, already estimates the P164 billion financial limit. He pointed out that higher tobacco taxes are needed to fund the program.
For this reason, DOH aims to increase the excise duty on cigarettes in P90 from the current P32.50 package. This would lead to net sales of around 45-47 million euros. (READ: Cigarette prices are rising as a result of the general health care bill)
The critics of the proposed measure to increase tobacco taxation have meant it is "against poverty", as the majority of the Filipino smokers are from the poorest population groups.
Weiler, however, said that the WHO "fully supports" the healthcare service's aspiration to receive additional funding for healthcare by increasing tobacco revenues.
"We have to invest, we need to find the money to invest," he said.
Mr Weiler also pointed out that the Philippines has been trying to increase tobacco taxation "poor to poor" because they would protect individuals who are having difficulty obtaining high health care costs and the development of serious illnesses caused by smoking.
"We, the WHO believe, tax increases on tobacco are poor quality because we know that poor populations are better responsive to price increases and more easily donate smoking and reduce cigarette consumption," he said.
In addition, Weiler also said that one of the best ways to reduce smoking was the more expensive "cigarettes," so people also experience the effect of tobacco not only on their health but also on their pockets. "
The Senate and the House of Representatives have accepted the versions of the UHC bill, but in both economies, the two-chamber conference committee has not yet been called to reconcile the various provisions of both versions.
Thereafter, the President signs the Bill. – Rappler.com