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On December 7, 2023, we explored how the Philippines is reforming its health financing to purchase integrated health services from networks of providers.

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Integration of care is defined by the World Health Organization as a means “to ensure everybody has access to a continuum of care that is responsive, coordinated and in line with people’s needs throughout their life.” Globally, there is much enthusiasm towards integrating care to further health system goals. If based on strong primary care and public health functions, integrated care can contribute to improved access, greater equity and efficiency in service delivery, and better quality of care and user experience, ultimately leading to health gains and client satisfaction.

One intervention towards integrating health services is the formation of service delivery networks or networks of care. Many countries, including China, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, have reorganized service delivery based on networks. How these networks are financed—or how they are situated within the country’s purchasing arrangements to use health financing terminology—is a critical factor determining their success.

The Philippines is one such country that is reforming its health system to ensure the integration of health services. In 2019, the country passed a landmark UHC Law introducing structural and functional changes in health financing, service delivery, and governance. The Law requires provinces and cities—referred to as local government units (LGUs)—to integrate health facilities into health care provider networks (HCPNs). The networks will constitute province- or city-wide health systems (PCWHS), each with a functional governance mechanism through an expanded health board and a referral process. The Law also mandates that PhilHealth payments and other revenue for facilities in an HCPN flow into a Special Health Fund maintained by the PCWHS to encourage this integrated approach. The country is piloting this approach in select implementation sites, which will be assessed in 2025, leading to recommendations for integrating all local health systems.

In this Counterpoint, we talked with key experts from the Philippines about these reforms. We heard about how the process of integration is unfolding, explored the opportunities and challenges of purchasing services from HCPNs, and received insights into how the implementation of these ambitious and far-reaching reforms can be improved. We also discussed lessons from the Philippines’ experience that other LMICs can leverage as they develop and execute strategies to ensure integrated health services.

Pura Angela Co, ThinkWell’s Philippines Country Director, hosted the webinar featuring the following specialists:

  1. Laurentiu Stan, an international development professional and current Chief of Party of USAID’s ReachHealth project, will share their experience in supporting the implementation of service delivery networks in the Philippines.
  2. Eduardo Banzon, a regional health financing expert from the Asian Development Bank, will share his perspective on how the Philippines is purchasing integrated health services compared to other regional experiences.
  3. Leslie Ann Luces, the Provincial Health Officer of Aklan will share opportunities and challenges for LGUs to ensure the delivery of integrated health services.

Some of the questions posed were as follows:

  1. How is the Philippines trying to achieve integrated health services through the financing reforms mandated in the UHC Law?
  2. What are the opportunities and challenges to purchase services from HCPNS with the UHC Law?
  3. What has been the progress in terms of implementing these reforms?
  4. What are the lessons and recommendations for its improved implementation?
  5. What can other countries learn from the Philippine experience?

Date and time: December 7, 2023, 7-8:30 PM Manila time (6:00 AM-ET)

Counterpoint is ThinkWell’s signature series of webinars, which offers a platform for free and frank debate about questions related to health system strengthening. Through these honest discussions, we strive to challenge dominant paradigms and scrutinize new trends to ascertain their merit.