Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Complete turnaround for health in Duterte’s second SONA

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In his second State of the Nation's Address, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte reiterated his administration’s dependence on the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, or PhilHealth. He said that PhilHealth coverage will be expanded and that the No Balance Billing policy will be strengthened.

For Health Alliance for Democracy, such statements are a complete reversal of his earlier stance against PhilHealth.

"More than a year after being elected into office, President Duterte has completely backtracked on PhilHealth and now continues with the Department of Health's band-aid solutions to age-old public health problems," said Dr. Darby Santiago, HEAD Chairperson. "He has forgotten that during the 2016 presidential debates, he was the only candidate to criticize PhilHealth, for which he was applauded and supported by many who wanted to see real changes in health care."

Protesters gather at Batasan ave. to ask President Duterte what has become of his
promised change on the president's second State of the Nation Address, July 24, 2017.
At that time, he was already convinced of the general ineffectiveness of PhilHealth that despite its ballooning budget and supposed coverage of the poor, patients still shouldered more than half the cost of their hospitalization.

"But now, Duterte is singing a different tune," Dr. Santiago said.

An effigy by the health sector, depicting Duterte and his health agenda,
where bureaucrat capitalists and imperialists benefit instead of the people.
Strengthening the No Balance Billing policy is useless when there are not enough government-run hospitals and when health facilities are poorly funded and understaffed. Even indigent members wind up paying for the medicines themselves or worse, go to private centers because these are the only ones nearby.

"Is this what President Duterte meant by change? That he will just do more of the same old things?"

The presidential backpedalling is not new. In his recent pronouncements, President Duterte has turned his back on the substantive issues and immediate concerns of Filipinos.

He promised to end labor contractualization, support genuine land reform, assert an independent foreign policy, and pursue the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines before and after he won the presidency.

For HEAD, the direction that the Duterte administration is taking reveals much of the interests it now represents. "President Duterte is now far removed from the people he alleges to serve. This is not the leadership we deserve. This is not the change that we want," Dr. Santiago lamented.##

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