November 21, 2021

A $600-million loan from the Asian Development Bank will assist the Philippines in providing universal health care.

As part of its universal health care (UHC) reform program, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a USD600 million policy-based loan to assist the Philippines in providing quality and equitable health services to all Filipinos.

The Build Universal Health Care Program aims to support the government’s initiatives to improve healthcare financing and delivery, as well as to implement measures to monitor healthcare providers’ performance.

The Philippines enacted the UHC Act in February 2019 to ensure that Filipinos have equitable access to high-quality health care while avoiding high out-of-pocket health costs. It includes a series of reforms that will be implemented over a number of years.

“The Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic has brought to light existing constraints in the country’s health-care delivery system, which the government sought to address in its pandemic health response.” “This program aims to strengthen the government’s ability to achieve UHC goals and provide timely and equitable health care services, particularly for the poor and marginalized across the country,” said ADB Director of Human and Social Development for Southeast Asia Ayako Inagaki in a statement Friday.

As part of its UHC reform, the Philippines has automatically enrolled all Filipinos in its National Health Insurance Program.

It also used higher taxes on alcoholic beverages, sweetened beverages, tobacco, and heated tobacco and vapor products to help finance UHC and expand primary care services.

“This new ADB program will assist the government in increasing financing for UHC, expanding the supply of health facilities and workers, enabling the integration of health care providers, and improving health system efficiency,” said Eduardo Banzon, ADB’s Principal Health Specialist for Southeast Asia.

The program will increase the sector’s use of digital tools and ensure data sharing among health information systems and databases.

It will strengthen collaboration with other government agencies, local government units (LGUs), and the private sector, as well as the Department of Health and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s implementation capacity.

It will help LGUs expand health promotion and improve access to health care workers and facilities, particularly in underserved LGUs.

In addition to the loan, the ADB will manage a USD2-million technical assistance grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction to help LGUs implement health policy reforms.

As the government prepares to implement the next set of UHC-related reforms by 2023, the ADB will provide technical assistance.

The new program is part of the Asian Development Bank’s 2018-2023 Country Partnership Strategy for the Philippines, and it supports the bank’s focus on increasing social investments in Filipinos from lower socioeconomic groups.

Ongoing ADB health sector programs, projects, technical assistance, and grants, including those initiated during the pandemic, supplement support for the Philippines’ UHC reforms.

Among these are a USD500 million loan for the Disaster Resilience Improvement Program, a USD125 million loan for the Health System Enhancement to Address and Limit Covid-19 (HEAL), a USD400 million loan for the Asia-Pacific Vaccine Access Facility’s Second Health System Enhancement to Address and Limit Covid-19, and a USD3 million grant for a new Covid-19 testing laboratory in San Fernando, Pampanga.

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