Ona stem cell PhilHealth proposal divides house

Manila, Philippines -- Lawmakers are divided over the proposal of Health Secretary Enrique Ona to include stem cell therapy among PhilHealth packages.

Those opposed say health authorities should first address the basic health care needs of the poor, the rising cases of HIV/AIDS and the snowballing number of maternal deaths before coming up with packages that only benefit the rich.

While those in support of the Ona proposal said there is no reason to stop PhilHealth from offering a stem cell treatment package as long as the medical sectorscertifies it as a standard medical procedure.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan said Health Secretary Enrique Ona should refrain from coming up with a health care package that would only benefit the "rich few."

"While there is nothing wrong with being pro-active in the pursuit of modern medical advancement, the Secretary should look into the most basic and urgent needs of our people, especially the poor. So many die of TB, a major killer, hypertension and diabetes. So many children are malnourished and many indigents in rural areas will never see a doctor in their lifetime," she said.

Ona said they are looking at the possible inclusion of stem cell therapy among the benefit packages of PhilHealth once the medical sector classifies it as a standard care.

"The Secretary is catering to the rich who can very easily spend on their own. He is out of touch with the health reality of the majority of our people. The people need free health services not a package that caters to the rich few," Ilagan said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. also opposed Ona's proposal, saying, "We know the prevalent diseases and causes of death here. Let's concentrate on them in PhilHealth."

But CIBAC party- list Rep. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales and Pampanga Rep. Yeng Guiao support DoH's proposal as long as it gains the nod of the medical experts.

"If and when our medical experts accept stem cell therapy as part of standard care in the country then DOH should include said therapy as part of the benefit packages of PhilHealth. With the development of science and technology, DOH should keep up with it and after the medical experts approve new methods of health care then they should be included as part of the benefit package of PhilHealth for the welfare of our people," Cruz-Gonzales said.

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Ona stem cell PhilHealth proposal divides house

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