THE National Government has outlined eligible health services and projects that can be financed by local government units (LGUs) from the Special Health Fund (SHF), a component of the Universal Health Care (UHC) program.
The eligible spending items include measures taken by LGUs to deal with public health emergencies, with their usage subject to reporting requirements and tracked in real time.
The Departments of Health (DoH), Budget and Management, Finance and Interior and Local Government, along with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) issued Joint Memorandum Circular 2021-0001 dated Jan. 13 to serve as the guidelines on how the SHF will be allocated, used and monitored by LGUs.
“The SHF shall be used to augment LGU funds for health for the following expenditure items as determined and approved by the P/CHB (provincial or city health boards),” according to the circular listing the supported activities.
Republic Act No. 11223 or the UHC Act authorized a special fund from the pooled income of provincial and city health systems, into which PhilHealth payments will also go. The funds will be managed by provincial and city health boards for LGUs to improve their health systems.
The fund will support health services for populations and individuals, heath system operating costs, investment, and salaries and incentives for healthcare workers.
The circular identified the population-based health services eligible for SHF funding as environmental health services, water quality and sanitation, health promotion programs or campaigns, epidemiology and disease surveillance, disease eradication, and preparedness measures for public health emergencies.
Ambulatory and inpatient care, medicine, and laboratory tests and procedures were classified among the eligible individual-based health services.
The DoH is authorized to add population- or individual-based health services in the future that are eligible for special-fund support.
Operating costs of health systems that may be funded through the SHF are those that supporting the management of such facilities, including the operations of P/CWHS, health boards as well as fuel for ambulances and vehicles used to transport patients, health services, health products and diagnostic specimens.
Fees to accredit and license the facilities and training, capacity-building activities, seminars or conferences conducted to streamline delivery of health services are also supportable by the special fund.
Capital investment eligible for funding must be contained in the LGUs’ health facility development plan and should fall under the category of: health infrastructure, equipment and instruments; information technology and tools for health facilities; ambulances and other vehicles for patient transport; and mobile clinics.
The SHF can support the salaries of additional health workers employed by local health units “until such time that the LGUs have implemented incremental creation of plantilla positions to hire the required number of healthcare workers.” Salaries will be determined based on current law and should not exceed the rates adopted by LGUs.
The fund may also be tapped for health worker incentives, including barangay health workers and barangay nutrition scholars.
Local health boards have been tasked with creating the three-year public investment plan for health to improve LGUs’ health service delivery, as well as the annual operational plan identifying programs for short-term implementation.
The boards will also report the SHF-supported items to the DoH and PhilHealth for monitoring.
The DoH and PhilHealth will create an SHF utilization tracking system enabling real-time collection, consolidation and analysis of how the funds are being used.
The circular will take effect in mid-February or 15 days after its publication Wednesday.
The UHC Act was signed in 2019. — Beatrice M. Laforga