A research and advocacy group has pushed for the passage of the bill raising the rates on excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products to fund the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law.
The Action for Economic Reforms (AER) expressed concern that the UHC Law may be at risk if the proposals to raise the excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products will not be made into law especially as the lawmakers are set to go on recess to give way to the upcoming midterm elections in May.
The House of Representatives recently approved bills that intend to raise the rates on excise taxes on on alcohol and tobacco products. The Senate has yet to pass its versions on the proposal.
On the other hand, the UHC law is waiting for the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The UHC law is a really a huge reform of the healthcare system. We expect that it will also entail a huge financial support. The Department of Health (DOH) estimates that around P257B will be needed in the first year of the implementation of the UHC,” Jo Ann Diosana of the AER told reporters at the Ateneo de Davao University last week.
Diosana said among the proposed sources of funding for the UHC Law is part of the budget of Department of Health, although the budget deliberations have yet to be completed due to disagreements among lawmakers and the Executive Department.
Other sources of fund for the UHC are the P67 billion subsidy from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., another P3 billion from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and P14 billion from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.
Based on the initial evaluation, there is still a gap of P68 billion even for the first year implementation of the UHC Law.
“We see an opportunity here because higher excise taxes for tobacco and alcohol are already being discussed in the Senate,” said Diosana even as she pointed out that there is a need for urgency on the part of the lawmakers so that deliberations and eventual passage of the laws increasing the excise taxes on sin products are done on time.
Without the additional funding from the increase in excise taxes on sin products, “we worry that the UHC will be at risk if we will not be able to finance it,” she said.
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