6TH PhilHealth STUDIES Forum centers discussion on financial protections for the vulnerable sectors

6TH PhilHealth STUDIES Forum centers discussion on financial protections for the vulnerable sectors

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), together with the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), convened the 6th PhilHealth STUDIES Forum at the Philippine International Convention Center, Pasay City, last November 9-10, 2022. With the theme, “Health Financing in Post-Pandemic Times: Exploring New Theories and Practices to Advance UHC (Universal Health Care), the event served as a platform to showcase study results, advocate change, and highlight achievements in health research. The forum made use of a hybrid format, wherein face-to-face onsite proceedings were broadcasted live to an online audience. 

Atty. Eli Dino Santos, PhilHealth President and CEO, explained the focus and significance of the event:

“The two-day forum will center the discussion on financial protections for vulnerable sectors, expanding health coverage, and re-examining policy reforms for Universal Health Care. This event aims to formulate evidenced-based recommendations and strategies for improving the National Health Insurance Program by re-evaluating lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic.”- Atty. Eli Dino Santos

“In this post-pandemic period, we identify the efficient solution and innovations to curb the increasing number of Covid cases, at the same time we continue improving the Philippine Health Systems continues efforts to implement effective policies and programs to address the Covid-19 virus and simultaneously technological innovations to support UHC. Atty. Santos added.

PhilHealth and DOST-PCHRD co-organized the event under the framework of the PhilHealth STUDIES project, which stands for Supporting the Thrust for UHC through Data, Information, and Knowledge Exchange Systems. 

Hon. Stella Luz Quimbo, a member of the House of Representatives, acknowledged the laudable efforts by the DOST-PCHRD and PhilHealth in addressing the gaps in the national health system. “Certainly, the most effective reforms are those based on science and data, hence, as a policy maker, I look forward to the evidence-based recommendations to be discussed at this event. The pandemic has highlighted the gaps in the country’s social insurance system, and I ‘m very glad you’re helping Congress come up with viable solutions to these problems.

“I hope through this forum, PhilHealth can objectively assess the full range of options available to PhilHealth management in the name of fulfilling its mandate”. She added.

The highlight of the event is a presentation by Dr. Ronald U. Mutasa, Senior Health Specialist in the Health, Nutrition, and Population Global Practice, World Bank, who tackled “Re-imagining Primary Health Care (PHC) in Post-Pandemic Times, spending more and spending better on PHC.” Dr. Mutasa talked about the fundamental importance of Primary Health Care (PHC) not just in achieving UHC and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but also in combating health and fiscal crises such as COVID-19. Countries with insufficient and ineffective PHC financing usually end up with plenty of issues around financial protection, inequalities, and access to care. Investing in PHC will entail effective revenue mobilization & pooling, better allocation of funds for PHC, and the implementation of a strategic provider payment system. 

In his summary of the health financing situation in the country, Dr. Mutasa positively remarked on the considerable gains made by the Philippines in regards to health outcomes and access to services, noting that “The Philippines stands slightly above other countries with similar income level or similar development when it comes to the universal health care coverage index.” However, he cautioned that access to services does not guarantee quality healthcare as gaps such as high out-of-pocket expenses still persist.

Dr. Mutasa also elaborated on three long-term trends that will influence the future demand for healthcare in the ‘post-COVID’ era: a) NCDs are increasingly becoming the leading causes of mortality; b) increasing threats of emerging infectious diseases; and, c) the growing impact of climate change.

Dr. Mutasa resonated with what a holistic PHC should embody “The patients’ experience when they are receiving care, the content of the care that they receive, and more importantly, the quality of that care is recorded in the health care system.”

Technical presentations and panel discussions through separate parallel sessions arranged for the participants during the first day include the research results of studies on the development of PhilHealth benefits for leading heart diseases, integration of local health systems, and an assessment of the All-Case Rates policy. Day two featured the Capstone Papers from the LEAD Capacity Building Program of PhilHealth, a training program proactively engaged and attended by PhilHealth employees from the head office and regional offices, and the papers generated from the PhilHealth Research Lab.

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