AIM RSN Policy Center explores how to maximize the benefits of free college tuition and universal he
The Asian Institute of Management Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness (AIM RSN PCC), in partnership with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) held a roundtable discussion titled “Maximizing the Benefits of Free College Tuition and Universal Health Coverage” on 12 September 2017 at the SGV Case Room, Asian Institute of Management, Makati City.
AIM RSN PCC Executive Director Dr. Jamil Paolo Francisco spoke about how the country is starting to reform its social services through the implementation of universal health care and the enactment of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931), which, among others, gives students in public universities, colleges and technical-vocational institutes free tuition.
However, he said that while 91 percent of the population is covered by PhilHealth in 2016, public awareness of PhilHealth benefit packages remains low for some benefits such as malaria and HIV/AIDS packages, and that majority of health expenditure still come from private out-of-pocket spending. Dr. Francisco added that according to the World Competitiveness Yearbook, while the Philippines ranks high in terms of quality of tertiary education (25th out of 63 countries in 2017), education as a whole remains problematic (59th out of 63 countries in 2017). Furthermore, he said that aside from the low quality of education especially that of basic education, people also face other challenges that may prevent them from entering tertiary education such as high direct and indirect costs of education, and opportunity costs of attending college such as foregoing income.
Dr. Francisco Soria, OIC Senior Vice President for Health Finance Policy Sector of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, stated that PhilHealth has been striving to increase coverage and has expanded benefits to include catastrophic procedures, emerging diseases, and disaster assistance programs. Nevertheless, Dr. Soria said that issues still remain including the financial solvency of PhilHealth in the long term, which may be addressed by increasing the premiums of paying members, improving collection, and regulating cost of health care services.
Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho, Research Division Chief of the Health Policy, Development and Planning Bureau of the Department of Health, shared about the progressive realization of universal health coverage. She also shared about proposed reforms to PhilHealth such as imposing fixed copayments for patients to help mitigate health care costs, and reforming the agency’s funding mechanism to ensure the agency’s sustainability.
Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go, Head of the Stephen Zuellig School of Development Management at AIM, said that healthcare is a basic human right. He also pointed out that whenever we are investing in social services, there should be a return of investment for the country. However, in terms of free tertiary education, he mentioned that offering free tertiary education will only benefit a few because there are other obstacles to entering college aside from tuition fees.
Ms. Marife Lou Bacate, Technical Assistant for Macro Human Resource Development of the Commission on Higher Education, highlighted the major education reforms that government has enacted such as theK+12, the UniFAST Act, and the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education (RA 10931). She also said there is still a long way to go to attain universal tertiary education and that people may not reap the benefits of tertiary education because of challenges in basic education. She added that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10931 will be made public soon and she encouraged the audience to give inputs to it.
Dr. Leonardo Lanzona, Jr., a professor in Economics from Ateneo de Manila University, agreed with the sentiments of Dr. Hartigan-Go and Ms. Bacate on basic education, and emphasized that investing in basic education prepares students more for tertiary education. He mentioned that while the investments in social services by the government have overtaken investments in economic services, there is more to be done to make Filipinos more skilled and healthier.
Finally, Prof. Juan Miguel Luz of AIM shared his ideas on improving the law through the crafting of an IRR that would ensure the smooth and proper implementation of RA 10931—one idea he suggested is the allotment of 60 percent of university slots to science degrees. He also gave other suggestions to maximize the benefits of tertiary education such as capping the number of state and local universities and colleges.
An open forum followed, with inquiries relating to return on investment of tertiary education, and the sustainability of universal health coverage and tertiary education.
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