Salceda explores other options to address financial gap in Senior Citizens’ healthcare, medical, basic needs for dignity in old age

House Ways and Means Chair Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said he is “exploring a separate insurance fund under Philhealth to address the financial gap and help ensure senior citizens’ (SCs) healthcare, specially their catastropic  medicine costs, other basic necessities and “little pleasures in dignified old age.”

Salceda who has recently succeeded in crafting laws to expand the benefits of SCs and persons with disabilities (PWD), said the problem of access to better elderly healthcare is structural, brought about by two factors: (1) increasing needs for specialized services, and (2) reduced personal incomes due to retirement. 

He said “around P1.6 trillion or 18 percent of the estimated P9.1 trillion needed to ensure a more decent life for all seniors remain deficient. We need to find ways to address this elderly welfare financial gap, but it should be tackled alongside other issues in SCs’ welfare.”

“That is why, together with SC Party-list Rep. Rodolfo M.]. Ordanes, and National Unity Party-list Rep. Alfel Bascug, representing PWDs, I have been working on issues concerning all aspects of senior citizen needs, not just health,” he explained, adding that “within that 18% gap, there are chronic conditions that require primary and supportive healthcare, where Philhealth primarily devotes its resources.”

“The unfilled gap is an acute or catastrophic health care issue. Without insurance, such medical expenses can be ruinous to ordinary families with senior citizens. The very limited case rates under Philhealth’s existing packages simply won’t do. A medical care cost becomes financially catastrophic when it endangers the family’s ability to maintain its customary standard of living,” he further explained. 

“I am exploring a separate insurance fund under Philhealth to address this gap. The risk profile is different, so the fund also has to be different. The fiscal resources for health are not yet exhausted,” he added.

Salceda said the absorptive capacity of the DOH [Department of Health] to spend it in full typically falls short. “There’s usually around ₱40 billion in excess funds that can be used to support a more aggressive seniors health insurance system — apart from PhilHealth’s excess reserve funds. We are on our way there,” he assured.

Millions of Filipinos, marginalized SCs and PWDs among them, now enjoy immense health and related benefit from the foresight concept Salceda has incorporated in two milestone tax reform measures he earlier crafted in the Lower House of Congress — the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) and Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) laws. 

The foresight concept refers to provisions on Value Added Tax (VAT) exemptions on selected medicines in the cited laws. Recently, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has added again 20 more drugs to the list of VAT-exempt medicines. 

As noted, there are now over 2,000 VAT-exempt drugs which are prescribed for the treatment of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, high cholesterol, tuberculosis, mental health issues and other ailments. It has been also noted that many senior citizens and other poor Filipinos often skip their medications because they could not afford to buy them. 

Under FDA Advisory No. 2024-0329 issued recently, the following 20 medicines were again added to the list of VAT-exempt health products: For hypertension: Losartan Potassium+Amlodipine (as besilate) 100 mg/10 mg tablet; Losartan Potassium+Amlodipine (as besilate) 100 mg/5 mg tablet; Irbesartan+Amlodipine (as besilate) 300 mg/5 mg tablet; and Irbesartan+Amlodipine (as besilate) 300 mg/10 mg tablet;

For cancer: Sonidegib (as phosphate) 200 mg capsule; Pemetrexed (as disodium heptahydrate) 100 mg lyophilized powder for IV infusion;  Asciminib (as hydrochloride) 20 mg tablet; Asciminib (as hydrochloride) 40 mg tablet; Palbociclib 75 mg tablet; Palbociclib 100 mg tablet;  Palbociclib 125 mg tablet; Pemetrexed (as disodium hemipentahydrate) 100 mg powder concentrate for solution for infusion; Pemetrexed (as disodium hemipentahydrate) 10mg/ml solution for injection; Cabasitaxel 60 mg/1.5 ml concentrate for solution for injection; Entrectinib 100 mg; and Entrectinib 200 mg.

For mental illness: Cariprazine (as hydrochloride) 1.5 mg capsule; Cariprazine (as hydrochloride) 3 mg capsule; Cariprazine (as hydrochloride) 4.5 mg capsule; and Cariprazine (as hydrochloride) 6 mg capsule.