By PressOnePH Business

Even before the Duterte administration was criticized for lower health budgets for 2020, the government already cut down on spending for Filipinos’ health and well-being last year, forcing the public to dip more into their pockets just to remain healthy.
In total, the country’s total health expenditures went up 8.3 percent year-on-year to P799.1 billion, latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.
Expenses rose nearly across the board, from money shelled out by private insurance corporations for their members, which increased 9.1 percent year-on-year, to local government units that spent 17.2 percent more for projects such as charitable medical programs for their constituents.
But the rising trend in health disbursements was not mimicked at the top of the Executive department. Figures showed that the central government disbursed P94.65 billion for health last year, down 7.3 percent annually.
State pension funds, Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), also lowered their health spending by 6.3 percent to P31.5 billion, data showed.
The reduction was the worst in the Department of Health (DOH), the state’s main health agency, where spending suffered a 9.5-percent slump year-on-year to P75.9 billion.
Government health spending, including those from the DOH, would include funds for public programs that supply free medicines in state-run clinics, immunization drives, as well as hospitalization benefits for poor families in government facilities. SSS and GSIS also provide medical loans and other benefits to their members.
At the very least, medical supplies in health facilities likely suffered from lower government health spending, while investments in new hospitals and clinics likely also took a hit. Gross health fixed capital formation dropped 7.8 percent to P32.23 billion last year. 
This matters because without a commensurate increase in investments, the country’s decrepit health facilities are likely to get stretched further by rising demand for health services as the population increases and people age.
The latest figures also add to the uncertainty over the implementation of the universal healthcare law, where minimum guarantees for treatment is given to all Filipinos, all while investments on facilities, medicines and supplies remain insufficient.  
An evidence of rising demand for health services can be gleaned from expenses by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
Philhealth, which insures around 106 million Filipinos, spent P127.64 billion last year, up 12.9 percent as more medical claims were filed.
But even Philhealth support appears no longer enough to pay the bills. PSA data also showed household expenses for health, or those directly coming out of people’s wallets when the need arises, rose 10.8 percent last year to P412.96 billion.
As a proportion of all health expenses, out-of-pocket spending accounted for 53.9 percent of total, up from 53 percent the previous year. The government wants to lower the ratio to 50 percent by 2022. 
Legislators are examining Duterte’s proposed P4.1-trillion budget for 2020, and have questioned why DOH recommended allocations were reduced to P14 billion from P31 billion this year. The proposed outlay for state-run Philippine General Hospital was likewise trimmed by P456 million.
Critics hit the reduction in health budgets that came as health officials scrambled to respond to ongoing polio and measles outbreaks as well as a dengue epidemic, and the resurfacing of diphtheria in some localities.
Proposed health allocations were slashed for next year even as confidential and intelligence funds for Duterte’s office increased to P4.5 billion.