Proposed budget shows diminishing priority for health

Falling subsidy for indigents belies promise of universal health care

Contrary to the Aquino government’s target of expanding the coverage of healthcare for all, the proposed national budget for 2011 has allotted a decreased budget for public hospitals and subsidy for indigents, according to research group IBON.

The 2010 budget item “Premium Subsidy for Indigents under the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP)” of Php5.17 billion falls to zero in 2011. If this has been transferred to the 2011 budget item “Subsidy for Health Insurance Premium of Indigent Families including for Informal Sector Enrolled in the National Health Insurance Program” which only increases by Php3.5 billion, then this implies that subsidies for indigents under the NHIP actually falls by Php1.67 billion.

Budget allocation for 55 public hospitals nationwide also falls by Php363.7 million – from Php5.2 billion in 2010 to Php4.8 billion in 2011. Moreover the budget for specialty hospitals (i.e. Lung Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Philippine Heart Center and Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care) falls by Php970.6 million.

At the same time the subsidy to indigent patients for confinement or use of specialized equipment falls by Php20 million – or more than half – from Php36 million in 2010 to Php16 million in 2011. Budget for 12 major public hospitals (i.e. Jose Reyes Memorial, Rizal Medical, East Avenue Medical, Quirino Memorial, Tondo Medical, Jose Fabella Memorial, National Children’s Hospital, National Center for Mental Health, Philippine Orthopedic, San Lazaro, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and Amang Rodriguez Medical) falls by Php4 million.

However, amid the falling budgets for public hospitals, IBON notes that military hospitals have increased allocations in the proposed budget. For instance, the budget of the AFP Medical Center increases by Php168 million, from Php923.5 million (2010) to Php1.091 billion (2011), while that of Veterans Memorial Medical Center increases by Php130.7 million.

One of the Aquino government’s supposed priority projects is to give ordinary citizens, especially the poor and elderly, access to quality professional healthcare. However falling government spending on health, especially for those who cannot afford to pay for healthcare and rely on subsidized government services, shows a continuing pattern of government’s neglect of the public health sector. (end)

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