Garin urges immediate review of Universal Healthcare Law, HTAC powers in healthcare agenda


Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin highlighted the need for a review of the Universal Healthcare Law and the powers of the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to enhance healthcare access and efficiency.

Garin, a physician and an expert in medical technology, public health, and vaccinology, raised the importance of revisiting the Universal Healthcare Law to address current inefficiencies and barriers to effective public healthcare.

“Achieving quality healthcare relies on government spending, accountability, and partnerships. It’s crucial to work together with executive agencies, which is why the government now is actively exercising its oversight powers,” she said.

Garin criticized the HTAC for its lack of urgency and the cumbersome processes that delay the approval and procurement of essential medicines and vaccines.

“There is a rigorous ethical review for inclusion in the Philippine National Drug Formulary (PNDF), but this often leads to delays that are not aligned with the procurement timelines of the Department of Health (DOH),” she said, echoing other healthcare providers.

She pointed out that while funds and medical assistance are available, the restrictive and lengthy HTAC review process hinders timely access to medications.

Garin mentioned the reality of hospitals having to wait three to four years for a drug to be approved and included in the PNDF, forcing the Secretary of Health to frequently issue certificates of exemption.

“Obtaining certification from social workers or barangay captains has politicized the process, contributing to reduced utilization,” Garin explained.

The implementation of the Medical Assistance to Indigent Patients (MAIP) program, which was formerly the Medical Assistance Program (MAP), has also encountered obstacles.

The new guidelines for classifying indigent and financially incapacitated patients, although intended to streamline access, have created additional layers of bureaucracy.

For example, cervical cancer is preventable through vaccination, which is more cost-effective compared to treatment. Despite this, in the Philippines, 12 Filipinas die every day due to this disease, highlighting the urgent need for prevention and intervention measures.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women, and among women between 15 and 44 years old in the Philippines. With the current healthcare laws in place, anti-cervical cancer vaccines remain unattainable for the middle-class Filipina.

She advocated for a more inclusive definition of eligible patients in the 2024 budget, aiming to address these barriers. The guidelines, published on April 16, 2024, now include the term “financially incapacitated patients” to better serve those in need.

Garin further urged a formal review of the Universal Healthcare Law, especially provisions related to HTAC’s authority.

She highlighted that the requirement for a vaccine or medical device to be used in other countries for 8 to 10 years before its adoption in the Philippines is detrimental to innovation and access.

“This provision is anti-industry and must be taken out. It’s a waste of time and government resources, making healthcare less accessible,” she asserted.

With elections approaching and the legislative session nearing its end, Garin emphasized the urgency of filing amendments to the Universal Healthcare Law before the deadline.

She expressed her commitment to vocalizing these issues during House sessions and pursuing necessary legislative changes. Garin ended the discussion with a remark, “Formal action is needed to review the Universal Healthcare Law and the powers of HTAC. The implementation of universal healthcare, currently managed by PhilHealth, needs thorough examination.”

As healthcare remains a prevalent issue for Filipinos, Garin’s initiatives highlight the urgent need to revisit existing laws to better serve public health needs, her office said in a statement.

Revisiting the Universal Healthcare Law and subsequently, the HTAC’s powers, reflects a broader effort to ensure that healthcare becomes more efficient and equitable. By addressing these systemic challenges, there is hope for a more responsive healthcare system that aligns with the evolving needs of the nation, the statement added.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *