A HOUSE leader on Saturday pushed for mandatory Philippine Health Insurance Corp. coverage plus other benefits, such as 20 percent discounts on selected goods and services and VAT-free privileges for kids up to the age of 12 of families who earn P250,000 per year, to complement the personal income tax exemptions under the proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN).
In filing House Bill 6041, CamSur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said the government must support its young citizens, especially during their formative years, in order for them to grow up into fully-equipped adult citizens.
“This bill aims to ease the financial burden of the parents whose annual income is below P250,000. It is especially important to children from disadvantaged areas, where access to healthcare services is low or limited to private institutions,” Villafuerte, a House deputy majority leader, said.
Villafuerte’s proposed “Junior Citizens Act” is the counterpart version of Senator Grace Poe’s Junior Citizen bill in the Senate.
“All junior citizens shall be covered by the national health insurance program of PhilHealth and shall therefore be automatic PhilHealth members until they reach the age of twelve (12), regardless of the family income,” Villafuerte said in his bill.
The benefits accorded to “junior citizens” under the bill extends to professional fees of physicians and dentists in private hospitals and of home health care service providers, as well as funeral and burial services in case of death.
Villafuerte said the 20 percent discount covers the purchase of medicines, vaccines, and other essential medical supplies; milk supplements for children aged 4-12 years; medical and dental services such as X-rays, diagnostics and laboratory fees.
Admission charges to leisure and amusement sites, such as movie houses and concert halls are also taken into consideration in this proposed law, Villafuerte said.
In filing HB 6041, Villafuerte joins over 100 other lawmakers who have co-authored an earlier bill filed in Congress last year also seeking the same benefits for the country’s “junior citizens.” The bill is now pending before the House Committee on the Welfare of Children.
Under the measure, qualified children are required to obtain a Junior Citizen ID and booklet to avail themselves of the privileges.
Villafuerte said the Philippines has made “great leaps” in fulfilling its commitment to the United Nations Millennium Goal of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health by establishing the National Coordinating Council for the Welfare of Children, and implementing pertinent laws such as the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Law” in 2000 and the “Barangay-Level Total Protection of Children Act” in 1992, which require all local government units to establish day-care centers in all barangays.
The Department of Health has, in turn, been implementing programs such as the “Safe Motherhood Program”, which provides maternal and newborn health services, and the “Women’s Health and Safe Motherhood Project,” which improves the delivery health services to disadvantaged women.
But these initiatives, Villafuerte noted, mostly focus only on the first 1,000 days of a child from the womb up to two years of age.
With Congress enactment of his bill, Villafuerte said government will be able to expand the benefits for children by covering their formative years up to age 12, Villafuerte said.