Gov’t eyes $400-M loan from ADB for universal health-care program

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The Philippines is seeking a $400-million loan from the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the country’s universal health-care program, which aims to not only improve the quality of but also to ensure equitable access to health services.

ADB documents showed that its upcoming financing for its host-country’s build universal health-care program (subprogram 1) was in line with the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act of 2019.

The loan to be implemented by the Department of Health (DOH) “will support the implementation of wide-ranging policy, legal, regulatory, institutional, financing, service delivery and performance monitoring reforms envisaged in the UHC Act to achieve and sustain UHC,” the ADB said.

The lender noted that the UHC Law “envisions a new health-care financing and service delivery architecture with the national government, local government units and the private sector working together to achieve its objectives.”

However, even prepandemic, the Philippines’ health-care system had been constrained with “insufficient government financing and uncoordinated health purchasing operations, inadequate and fragmented health services, and weak information management and accountability at the national and local government levels,” the ADB said.

It did not help that health expenditures in 2019 were equivalent to only 4.1 percent of gross domestic product, below the 2018 global average of 9.8 percent and the middle-income country average of 5.1 percent, such that the ADB said the Philippines had a high share of individual out-of-pocket spending for health care, which “contributed to catastrophic and impoverishing health expenditures and inequity for many Filipinos.”

“These constraints have been highlighted during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by the insufficient hospital treatment capacity, poor contact tracing and high hospital user fees,” the ADB said. —Ben O. de Vera INQ


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