By Macon Araneta

Believing the Universal Health Care(UHC) will take a “back seat” because the sin tax bill will not be passed before Congress adjourns, Sen. Imee Marcos stressed that all prescription medicine should be exempted from value-added tax (VAT).

“Why don’t we remove VAT from all medicines because no one wants to get sick and to have to buy medicine so let’s do that first of all…at least let’s help the public a little bit,” said Marcos. 

Marcos also took potshots at the Department of Health (DoH) for the possible delay in the implementation of universal health care for all Filipinos.

She told reporters in an interview that until now Health Sec. Francisco Duque has no clear details on how they will roll out UHC. 

“The truth is — until now, we don’t know the real cost of universal health care, when exactly is the roll-out, how much will be released each year,” said Marcos.

She also questioned if the DoH can do it or will the medicines  end up expired and stored in storage warehouses. “That’s our problem,” she said.

She also raised doubts on the capacity of Philhealth which will take charge of the funds for the UHC implementation.

“At present, there are many corruptions in Philhealth. How much more if they will be given billions?” she said.

In the meantime, she said the government can remove VAT on prescriptive medicines. 

She said the government earlier exempted from VAT medication for diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension.

“VAT can be removed from prescriptive medicine after all. Why don’t we remove other medicine as well … It seems that we’re making it like a luxury item,” she said

“Nothing happened, the sky did not fall,” said Marcos referring to the Tax Reform for Acceleration (TRAIN) law which exempted diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension medicines from VAT. 

She said the proposed tax increases on liquor products, alcohol, gin, even e-cigarettes, stemmed from the need to fund the UHC, which has been signed by Duterte  into law last February.

The Senate is currently hearing proposed measures to  impose higher excise tax on liquor, heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes that would help in funding UHC.