September 15, 2016
All for Health, Health for All: New Name, Same Profit-Oriented Healthcare
“All for Health towards Health for All” is the new tagline of the Department of Health (DOH) under Health Secretary Jean Paulyn Ubial, which intends of providing accessible healthcare to Filipinos. But according to Dr. Joseph Carabeo of Health Alliance for Democracy, “The DOH Health Agenda reveals a profit-oriented health care system that neglects the immediate and important health needs of the Filipino people instead of implementing much-needed changes that point to a more pro-people direction.”
“This supposedly new health agenda is a copy of the Aquino Health Agenda,” added Dr. Carabeo. The “over-all strategic thrust” of the DOH according to Health Secretary Ubial is to bring key stakeholders together to improve access to health services and reduce out-of-pocket costs. “But PhilHealth the so-called stakeholders, partnerships with private institutions, have been failing to achieve this goal for so many years.”Despite billions of pesos poured into PhilHealth, it accounts only to 11% of the total health expenditures, out-of-pocket spending is still high at 60%.
“It made healthcare less accessible as we saw increased healthcare costs and diminishing services for the poor and indigent. ‘Health for all’ shall remain a fantasy as the policies remain profit centered and income oriented,” added Dr. Carabeo.
Meanwhile, the 72 DOH hospitals suffered budget cuts in their Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE), used for medicine, utilities and maintenance of equipment, by more than half (51%: P74.4 billion in 2016 to P38 billion in 2017). Dr. Carabeo said that “Hospital budget cuts and the strong endorsement of PhilHealth is geared towards turning public healthcare into a private enterprise. They want to turn health into a profitable business, while pretending to increase the budget for the poor and indigent through PhilHealth.”
The DOH Health Agenda espouses the neoliberal policies of privatization and corporatization of health services. These in turn are part of the larger scheme by international monopoly capitalists to turn healthcare into a commodity where international markets can profit. Through various trade agreements and institutions such as the IMF-WB (International Monetary Fund–World Bank), it aims to serve foreign private interests as well as local private institutions instead of the majority of Filipinos.
Additional budget must be allocated to ensure a free, comprehensive and progressive healthcare system.
We must reject neoliberal impositions on health such as privatization and corporatization.
“The New Health Agenda should prioritize the public healthcare system instead of coddling local and foreign institutions that plan to profit from the Philippine healthcare delivery system. Health Secretary Ubial and DOH will fail miserably in instituting a pro-people and strong public healthcare delivery system if it does not change its policies” concluded Dr. Carabeo.