By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The government should ensure that its income from casinos and lotteries would be used to fund the implementation of the Universal Health Care Bill now passed in Congress.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto made the appeal as he stressed that the proposed Universal Health Care (UHC) program for Filipinos should not go unfunded.
The Senate, in its session Wednesday before going on a five-week break, approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 1896 which provides for the creation of the universal health care program. The House of Representatives passed a similar version in September last year.
“The tax on vices will fund the good virtue of health-for-all,” Recto said in a statement Thursday.
“Ang UHC bill ay parang reseta sa gamot ng doktor. Walang silbi kung walang pambili (The UHC bill is like a doctor’s prescription. It would have no sense if there are no funds for it). One enemy of health care is anemic funding,” he said.
Recto said it is just fitting to allocate the government’s casino and lottery profits to the implementation of the UHC program.
In explaining his vote for the measure’s passage, he said it is “better for our health institutions to direct where funds must go than for state gaming bodies to triage who will receive help or not.”
“’Pag tumaya ka sa lotto, malaking bahagi ng halaga ng ticket ay pupunta sa pagpapagamot ng may sakit (If one placed his bet on lotto, a huge chunk of the ticket payments should go to the sick),” he added.
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography and sponsor of SB 1896, said that while Congress has already allocated some P200 billion for its implementation in the first two years, the UHC program might face lack in resources in the following years.
“On (sic) the third year, we might go short in funding that’s why I will push for additional revenue like sin tax, particularly tobacco tax,” Ejercito said in a press briefing Thursday.
Ejercito said the government would need around P300 billion to P400 billion for the third year of its implementation.
Under the approved Senate bill, the universal health care program will get its funding from the 40 percent of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s (PCSO) “charity fund” and 50 percent of the national share from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
Incremental sin tax collections from tobacco and alcohol products will also be pledged to the UHC.
These would be on top of the annual allocations for the Department of Health (DOH), PhilHealth, and the many mandates under the UHC.