Philippines: National Healthcare Coverage for All Filipinos

All Filipinos will now be eligible for coverage under the country’s national health insurance scheme, PhilHealth. At the end of June 2013, Filipino President Benigno Aquino III signed a law expanding national healthcare coverage to all Filipinos, including the indigent and those with disabilities.

Currently, 80 million of the Philippine’s 95 million people are covered under the program, which has grown rapidly since the mid-2000s. A provision in the original bill excluded local governments from enrolling all patient groups until they had “reasonable access to adequate and acceptable health care services.” The new law voids that provision.

To pay for increased coverage, the central government has poured nearly $300 million in subsidies into PhilHealth since January 2013. In addition, it has doubled the 2013 budget for the Department of Health, which oversees the program. However, PhilHealth will need more money in order to increase individual benefits. Currently, only about one third of healthcare expenses are covered under the plan, and almost no outpatient medications are eligible for reimbursement.

The expansion of national coverage presents mixed opportunities for foreign firms, which dominate the country’s $300 million medical device and $4 billion pharmaceutical markets. Expanded coverage should increase the number of Filipinos eligible for reimbursement. But it might also put pressure on the central government to further reduce reimbursement pricing.