Manila: A proposal to provide automatic health insurance cover to senior citizens has been signed into law and an estimated six million elderly Filipinos are expected to benefit from this safety net.

According to Senator Ralph Recto, President Benigno Aquino III last Tuesday signed Republic Act 10645 or ‘An act providing for the mandatory PhilHealth coverage for all senior citizens’.

Recto sponsored the bill in Senate. PhilHealth is the state-run health insurance cover.

Government considers Philippine citizens aged 60 and above as ‘senior citizens’ and is entitled to benefits accorded to them by law.

“PhilHealth members only need to show at the hospital their identification cards as proof of their age and membership,” Recto said.

Contributions to the PhilHealth fund is mandatory to all Filipinos in the private and government sector as well as those employed overseas. In recent years, the benefit had been expanded to cover other sectors including the urban poor and the disabled.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, principal sponsor of RA 10645, for his part said the signing of the law was an ‘early Christmas gift’ to the Filipino elders.

“It is high time we give back to our country’s elders. In our culture, the condition and situation of a person in his or her advanced age is the reflection of the character of his or her children. How we take care of our senior citizens is also a mirror of our character as a nation,” Guingona said.

“It is the priority of this administration to give social protection services to all Filipinos. Let us start with our seniors,” he added.

The PhilHealth, as of December 2013, has 31.27 million registered members and 45.63 million dependents totalling to 76.90 million Filipinos provided with PhilHealth coverage..

Under the government’s aim of Universal Healthcare, the state would provide portions of the fund needed to provide health insurance cover for all sectors.

“It is a government mandate aiming to ensure that every Filipino shall receive affordable and quality health benefits. This involves providing adequate resources — health human resources, health facilities, and health financing,” the Department of Health said.

In line with the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the UNDP, the government is working to achieve access to quality hospitals and health facilities, reduce maternal and child mortality, morbidity and mortality from Tuberculosis and Malaria, and incidence of HIV/AIDS.

It may be noted, only a portion of the 100 million populace has health insurance coverage.