By Jose Cielito Reganit

FREE CHECKUP. The Department of Health and the Davao City Health Office provide free diabetes screening at SM City Annex in Davao City on July 31, 2023. House Bill No. 1785 seeks to provide free annual medical checkup for all Filipinos to ensure access to preventive healthcare. (PNA file photo by Robinson Niñal Jr.)

MANILA – A bill filed in the House of Representatives would entitle every Filipino to a free annual medical checkup and ensure access to preventive healthcare.

All Filipino citizens, by virtue of their membership in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) as mandated under the Universal Health Care Law, “shall be entitled to the applicable benefits under the Philippine Health Insurance Program,” according to House Bill (HB) 1785, or the proposed Free Annual Medical Checkup Act.

In a news release Tuesday, bill co-author Bicol Saro Party-list Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan said that despite the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law and other significant strides in the Philippine health care system, “many Filipinos still succumb to diseases that are otherwise preventable and treatable with cost-effective interventions.”

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that as of September 2023, the leading cause of death in the Philippines was ischemic heart disease, followed by neoplasms (cancer), cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, and pneumonia.

A separate report showed that six out of 10 Filipinos die without being medically attended to.

HB 1785 states that the free annual medical checkup shall include cholesterol and blood sugar tests. Laboratory and diagnostic tests shall also be expanded subject to the availability of funds.

Yamsuan said the bill ensures that each Filipino shall have the chance to access free annual medical checkup in any government hospital “to promote their right to quality health care services and prevent disease, disability, and death.”

“In the long run, the investment in extending this free checkup benefit would also lead to the government spending less in providing treatment for life-threatening ailments such as diabetes and heart disease, as many Filipinos would have the opportunity to be diagnosed and treated early before their conditions worsen,” he said. (PNA)