Senate Bill (SB) No. 1076, or the “Malasakit Center Act of 2019”, sponsored by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, adopted several amendments from senators and was subsequently approved on second reading during the Senate regular session on Wednesday, November 6.

Among those who advanced their amendments were senators Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Ralph Recto, and Go himself.

Proposed by Go, one of the significant amendments to the bill’s current form include not prohibiting a patient or his or her representative from accessing and request medical and financial assistance directly from the concerned agencies, in addition to what the Malasakit Centers seek to provide.

In relation to said amendment, Drilon also sought to ensure that the law will not limit access to assistance to or availability of medical and financial assistance only to indigent and financially incapacitated patients. 

As Go emphasized in previous statements, “ang serbisyo mula sa Malasakit Center ay para sa lahat ng Pilipino.” 

The proposed bill was also modified so that it will not exclude individual referrals to other agencies for financial assistance.

Meanwhile, Recto initiated his individual amendments by congratulating Go for the measure, saying that it promotes “greater efficiency of availing medical and financial through one-stop shops.”

However, Recto, among his other proposed amendments, noted that the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) should be included in the measure which provides for the establishment of Malasakit Centers in Department of Health (DOH)-run hospitals. PGH is run by the University of the Philippines – Manila.

Go, then, agreed for PGH to be specifically mentioned in the bill, saying that he “interposes no objection as it is a premier national university hospital.” He added that there is currently a Malasakit Center established in PGH to help patients in need of medical assistance in Manila. 

Meanwhile, Hontiveros also proposed to enhance the health promotion and education functions of the Malasakit Centers. 

Intended to reduce the out-of-pocket expenditures of indigent and poor patients including non-medical expenses, like transportation costs, SB 1076 seeks to establish Malasakit Centers in all DOH-run hospitals throughout the country.

The centers will serve as one-stop shops for all medical and financial assistance to indigent and poor patients, putting in one center all government agencies presently involved in giving these assistances.

Malasakit Centers will also serve as health care processing centers for patient assistance and referral to provide much needed system support for patient navigation under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law.

Currently, there are 49 Malasakit Centers already established nationwide. Go said that he seeks to institutionalize and set criteria for the establishment of Malasakit Centers to ensure that these centers are properly staffed so that concerned agencies are represented and are functioning properly to help every Filipino in need. 

“Pera niyo po ito. Ibinabalik lang sa inyo sa pamamagitan ng mabilis, maayos at maaasahang serbisyong medikal para sa lahat ng Pilipino,” Go said. 

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