Cordillera Folk Supports Bill for Free Health Care for the Elderly

The elders of Cordillera expressed support for the bill seeking to provide free health care for senior citizens in government hospitals.

Northern Dispatch

BAGUIO CITY – The elders of Cordillera expressed support for the bill seeking to provide free health care for senior citizens in government hospitals.

Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo filed the House Bill 5831 which aims to amend the Senior Citizens Act of 1992 by “rightfully granting to senior citizens the privileges that they deserve – free health in government hospitals.” The bill is now with the House Committee on Population and Family Relations.

Ocampo said, “The elderly have worked hard and helped in building our nation during the prime of their lives. It is only right that government gives back a little by providing free hospitalization to senior citizens in government hospitals.” The bill has received support from various sectors, including elders in the region.

Fermina Brillo, 55, a teacher by profession for 27 years, said the bill, if approved, would show respect to elders especially in times that they needed support.

She added that even in other countries, particularly in advanced countries, the senior citizens are well supported by government institutions.

Johnny Sawadan, deputy secretary-general of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) said the measure is a good and a welcome move. It is the implementation of a constitutional provision on caring for the elderly, said Sawadan.

Philip Canuto, an elder from the Ibaloi village of Happy Hallow in this city, saluted Ocampo for the measure. “It is a great help to the elderly especially to the poor who cannot afford health care,” he said.

The bill hopes to address the growing elderly population (60 years and over) of the country which is approximately 4.6 million based on a 2000 census.

More practical

Others said that a good discount for the elderly is more practical under the present reality.

A retired teacher said that a good discount for elders would be most helpful. If most of the patients would be senior citizens, then government funds for their hospitals would not suffice.
She added that the bill is good but it also needs strategizing and programming. If it is totally free, then there should be an assurance of funding that must be addressed, she said.

The Philippine health budget is below two percent of the total national budget.

Privatization as barrier

The Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore), a community-based health program in the region, said privatization of government hospitals is a barrier.

The group said that the government plans to privatize the state-owned health institutions which include the following: East Avenue Medical Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Heart Center, National Center for Mental Health, Philippine Orthopedic Hospital, National Children’s Hospital, Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Hospital, Ilocos Teaching and Regional Hospital, Mariano Marcos Medical Center, Region 1 Medical Center, Pangasinan Provincial Hospital, Capiz Provincial Hospital, Palawan Provincial Hospital, and Davao Medical Center.

Privatization is not only a hindrance to the noble intention of the bill but contrary to the aims of the Constitution, pointed Sawadan.

Basic rights

Erlinda Palaganas, a nurse and faculty member of the University of the Philippines Baguio maintained that the free health care for senior citizens must be supported and adopted. “In fact, free health care must be applied as a policy for it is a basic right,” pointed out Palaganas, also adviser of the Cordillera Philippine Nurses Association.

“I urge Congress to prioritize the legislation of measures like this bill,” added Canuto. Northern Dispatch/Posted by

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