Koko wants meds for mental illness VAT-free

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III has sought for the expansion of the list of value-added tax (VAT)-exempt medicines, to include those prescribed for persons with mental health conditions.

Senate Bill No. 2193 filed by Pimentel last Jan. 29 seeks to further amend a provision in the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, particularly Section 109.

While the Mental Health Act, which was signed into law last year, made mental health services accessible and integrated the mental health care in the basic health services, the law does not cover the cost of drugs and medicines, he said.

"To sustain the treatment or prevention of mental health conditions, it is imperative that drugs and medicines are made affordable," Pimentel said.

"To bring down the cost of drugs and medicines prescribed for mental health conditions, this bill proposes to exempt them from the imposition of VAT," he added.

More than 100 maintenance medicines - those prescribed for treatment and prevention of diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol - are now exempted from payment of VAT following the implementation of RA 10963, otherwise known as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law.

The exemption from the 12 percent VAT of the said maintenance medicines took effect last January 1.

In his explanatory note, Pimentel said records from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that mental illness and mental retardation are the third and fourth common disabilities respectively.

A study in 2004 by the World Health Organization further revealed that 60 percent of people attending primary care clinics daily in the Philippines have one or more mental neurological or substance use (MNS) disorders while a 2006 study by the Department of Health (DOH) showed that among government employees in Metro Manila, 32 percent of the 327 respondents have experienced a mental health problem in their lifetime.

Mental health and well-being is a concern of all and it is for this reason that the passage of the bill is earnestly sought, the senator said.

Pimentel is hoping to have his proposed amendment adopted into law the soonest time possible and to take effect by January 1, 2020.

Source: Senate of the Philippines