By RACHEL LOPEZ, AP Washington (AP) White House officials have repeatedly insisted they are working on a comprehensive plan to help the Philippines address the country’s health care crisis, including providing millions of dollars for private health insurance and a new, multilateral health care forum.
The White House has made clear that the United States will not pay for any of that if Congress does not act soon.
The president has also repeatedly insisted that the Philippines can solve its health care issues, and even offered to reimburse the government for its expenses.
The Philippines has no public health insurance, which leaves it with a costly and unreliable system of care for the uninsured.
It’s a problem that could have far-reaching implications for other U.S. partners.
The United Kingdom has a $2 billion emergency fund and $300 million in emergency loans, while Canada, Germany and Australia are also on the verge of needing more funding.
The U.N. has already called for the United Kingdom to act to ensure access to health care and urged other governments to do the same.
The Philippines, whose economy is among the poorest in the region, is in the midst of an epidemic, with about 50,000 people dying from the coronavirus and more than 700,000 sickened.
The country has been struggling to improve its health system amid a global pandemic that has killed more than 13,000 and displaced more than 11 million people.
It has also been forced to rely on private, government-run health care for most people, including those with disabilities, those with chronic conditions and others who have no access to medical care.
The Philippine Health Ministry reported last month that about 4.7 million people are uninsured, according to a preliminary count.
That’s an increase of almost 1.5 million since the government first announced it was running out of money in December, and about 2.3 million people had received assistance, the ministry said.
The government is working on an additional 2.5 billion pesos ($40 million) in emergency aid to cover the cost of the Philippines’ health care needs, said the ministry, which is the largest recipient of U.K. aid.
The United States has already contributed $6.8 billion to the Philippines through bilateral aid, $1.9 billion in U.G. contributions and $1 billion in European Union money.
The Obama administration is pushing for Congress to extend the emergency aid until June 30.
But it’s not clear that Congress will agree.
“The administration is committed to continuing to provide all necessary support to the people of the Republic of the Philippine Islands and will continue to work with Congress to ensure that the resources are properly allocated,” said a White House statement.
In a statement issued Thursday, Trump said he wants the U.U.S.-Philippines summit to be a success and said that it’s a matter of national pride to be the only nation in the world that has the highest rate of health care coverage.
“We are going to work very hard to make sure that the health care system is the best in the history of the world,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte said in a statement Thursday that he is “very proud” of his country’s progress in fighting the virus and “the many health care workers who are doing so tirelessly.”
The Philippines has been under an Ebola quarantine since mid-December.
The World Health Organization declared it officially declared a public health emergency, or PHQ-8, on Tuesday.