That’s according to the House’s resident economist, Joey Salceda of Albay, who disputed the projections made by a Department of Finance official that with the increased tobacco levy, the funding deficit for the UHC law would not only be wiped out but there would even be a surplus.
Edd Gumban
Expanded health care funding short by P222 B — Salceda
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - June 20, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Funding for the expanded health care program contained in the Universal Health Care (UHC) law will still be short by more than P200 billion despite the increase in the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

That’s according to the House’s resident economist, Joey Salceda of Albay, who disputed the projections made by a Department of Finance official that with the increased tobacco levy, the funding deficit for the UHC law would not only be wiped out but there would even be a surplus.

Salceda and DOF Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino agree on the program’s total funding requirement of P275.5 billion for 2020, P271 billion for 2021, P286.3 billion for 2022, P302.4 billion for 2023 and P319.4 billion for 2024.

They also have common figures on available funds from existing sources prior to the approval by Congress of the bill on higher tobacco taxes: P195 billion, rising to P199 billion, P201 billion, P207 billion and P210 billion over the five-year period.

There is thus a funding deficit of P348.7 billion when one deducts available funds from the amount of money the implementation of the program needs.

That gap is to be filled with the collections from the higher tobacco tax.

But Salceda and Lambino are oceans apart when it comes to incremental revenue projections.

Salceda estimates the annual increment or increase to be P14.9 billion next year, rising to P22.4 billion, P26 billion, P32.3 billion and going down to P30.8 billion in 2024, for a total of P126.4 billion.

Thus, by Salceda’s computation, there would still be a funding deficit of P222.3 billion.

On the other hand, Lambino, in a recent interview on ABS-CBN News Channel, projected that the bill increasing the tobacco tax and imposing a levy on e-cigarettes would bring in an additional P130 billion next year, P136 billion in 2021, P142 billion in 2022, P147 billion in 2023 and P151 billion in 2024, for a total of P706 billion.

Lambino said funds for the program from existing sources plus additional tobacco tax collections would amount to P1.718 trillion over the initial five-year implementation period, while the total estimated cost is P1.437 trillion, or a surplus of P281 billion.

Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, who chairs the House committee on health and one of the authors of the UHC law, is elated with the DOF official’s projections.

A collection surplus would mean an increase in covered services and number of beneficiaries, Tan said.

“However, a deficit would mean the government would have to scale down services,” she said.

Another author of the law, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, said that without a steady funding source for the program, PhilHealth would continue paying for only 18 primary care drugs and seven health conditions.

“But with the tobacco tax hike, PhilHealth coverage will expand to 120 drugs and there will be no limit on primary care treatment,” Villafuerte said.

He said the moves taken by President Duterte in relation to the PhilHealth fund scam “will prevent the UHC program from taking a nosedive even before it could take off, more so now that this pro-poor program has obtained adequate funding with the passage of new sin tax bill.”?

“The President is doing the right thing in effecting a leadership shakeup at PhilHealth and at the same time ordering the concerned agencies to throw the book at erring health service providers and their cohorts in PhilHealth,” he added. 

Villafuerte said the scam “has obviously thrived through the sheer incompetence or connivance of certain PhilHealth execs nationwide.”

“The President is correct to point out that this issue is big because public funds are involved. This scam should not go unpunished,” he added.

“The congressional approval of the bill raising taxes on tobacco products and imposing a levy on heat-not-burn devices and e-cigarettes will go for naught without the President’s twin directives last weekend to stem the fund leakage at PhilHealth and eventually put erring health service providers and conniving government officials and employees behind bars,” Villafuerte said.

 

JOEY SALCEDA UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE LAW
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