Angara pushes more protection for poor children

May 6, 2009 3:16 am 

MANILA, May 5 — Senator Edgardo Angara on Tuesday filed a social protection mechanism in the form of health insurance program for the poorest Filipino children by establishing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

"In our country, there is still continuing disparity in our citizens' living standards as highlighted by inequitable access to health care. Poor families would usually forego health care, or borrow money at usurious rates, sell the few assets they have, or pull children out of school, just to afford health services they need for catastrophic illnesses. Faced with an economic crisis, we must sound the alarm bell and make necessary adjustments to save our country, most especially our children, from a catastrophic health crisis," Sen. Angara said when he filed Senate Bill 218.

Similar bills, Senate Bill 3158 authored by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate Bill 2326 filed by Senator Loren Legarda also seek to establish CHIP.

"Thus, we need to make our children not only dependents of health insurance but beneficiaries themselves. Through this program, the government can significantly increase its investments in health thereby rescuing our young population from a health crisis," Angara, who authored the Philhealth law, added.

According to Asian Development Bank estimate, 56,000 children in Asia will die due to declining growth rates which pose "serious economic and social impacts in the region" as a result of the Global Economic Crisis.

In another World Bank report, the financial institution estimates that 400,000 children will die worldwide from the impact of the financial crisis.

Angara was alarmed by these statistics, eyes more social protection for the 14,000,000 Filipino children which are considered poor. The figure is almost half of the country's estimated number of children pegged at 33,000,000.

According to the senator, CHIP would complement the existing National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) or PhilHealth by providing children with a full range of health services like regular checkups, immunizations, prescription drugs, laboratory tests, X-rays, hospital and clinic visits, durable medical equipments hospital visits, even dental and eye care.

Under the present PhilHealth system, all senior citizens, including indigents, are provided with financial access to health services. With the proposed CHIP, the country's health services would now cover children, one of the most uninsured members of our population.

Angara, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, also stressed that additional investments on our nation's health are needed as the country is still faced with major challenges in the health sector.

Earlier, health experts raised concerns that shrinking national budgets due to the financial crisis could force governments to cut back on social spending in areas such as health care, nutrition and education, potentially affecting a huge number of children.

"Poor families, especially during times of financial difficulties, would usually forego health care and put their resources into food. The state should take on the task and pay attention the health of our country's children, if we hope to raise a strong and productive future generation,” Angara pointed out. (PNA)

LAP/rudyma

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