Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Boring but Comforting"

The world changes as soon as a man and a woman decide to upgrade their relationship status from dating to married.

If their definition of sweetness constitutes the kilig factor, then they must be in for some serious disappointments. The kilig factor often wanes in just a few years as the couple falls into the trap of balancing the demands of domestic life and workaday world. Where dating couples can afford to spend late nights and weekends trying out the newest restaurant in town or catching the latest plays and movies, a married couple's typical weekend is spent juggling Gymboree classes and doctors' appointments with professional and personal commitments.

Then kids -- they literally, come in between the conjugal bed. Where newlyweds find it hard to get their hands off each other, making love at every opportunity, once to twice a month seems a healthy norm for those who are more immersed in the married life. Having it once a week is already a good month, as some would say.

Such set up buzzes an alarm for a woman who's at the prime of her single life: Can married life really get that boring?

A girl friend had to add a conjunction together with a fitting description of her married life. But comforting, she said.

One's husband is, as a life partner, a woman's best friend. To see less of the boring stuff and appreciate their nuisances, I thought of the following contrasts after listening to several friends talk about how they make their marriages comforting when it gets a little boring.

1. It is really acceptance, not submission.

The typical feminist may react negatively upon hearing the age-old advice of elders saying that women should submit to their husbands. (Even I would beg to differ!) Given this, we may have to consider changing the term as in reality, submission indicates a play on power. Acceptance recognizes individual differences; hence, it is very important to look at a potential mate's principles, priorities and personal goals before tying the knot!

2. It is partnership, not competition.

If we take a look at the other reasons why couples split up, we see how marriages crumble at the face of external challenges and conflicting views and desires. It might be safe to say that in such cases, couples have forgotten the big picture -- their commitment, dreams and even, love for each other -- by focusing on the problems and their differences. What couples fail to remember is that they made vows to be together through thick and thin, for richer and for poorer, and in sickness and in health. Marriage has bound them together so that they may work as partners, boosting each other's strengths and complementing each other's weaknesses. Instead, some couples seem to see each one as a competitor, which is telling of how poisonous power is once it is allowed into the relationship.

3. Steady and stable works longer than exciting.

Remember how long those racy night outs and exotic island vacations, a.k.a. what happens in Bora stays in Bora, lasted? Quick, yes. Any long-term relationship should be able to withstand the change of tides and seasons, as well as grow even after the excitement that comes along with novelty wears off. Noting that excitement necessitates surges in emotions, it may seem emotionally unhealthy if one's love life runs on rapidly varying emotions.

There is no single recipe to a relationship that lasts. And yes, this woman would be the last person in the world for credible advices on the relationship bureau.

So let's end this post with a rather blunt question:
Are you ready for boring but comforting?

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Women's Challenges in Universal Health Care

About halfway through the establishment of Kalusugang Pangkalahatan (Universal Health Care or UHC) as the Aquino Health Agenda, we have seen massive efforts to increase PhilHealth enrollments and enhance benefits for Filipinos belonging in the lowest income quintiles.

Private sector participation seeks to help address the remaining gaps and inequities in health care access by looking at unreached disadvantaged sectors such as the workers in informal sector who cannot be classified as poorest of the poor yet, are disempowered from accessing basic health services.

In my work at a foundation that helps said disadvantaged segment obtain sustainable access to quality health care through PhilHealth memberships, I came to realize that economically-disadvantaged women have yet to hurdle some challenges to a more inclusive health care system.

A Disconnect between Case Rates and Access
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In 2011, the PhilHealth released Special Benefits Packages, including case rates payments covering several cases for women such as maternity packages, mastectomy, dilatation and curettage, among others, and no balance billing (NBB). Under NBB, "no other fees shall be charged or paid for by PhilHealth patients beyond the identified case rates." (PhilHealth)

While these enhancements in member benefits are beneficial for women, the problem is they are not accessible to some, if not many. This situation prevents PhilHealth from fully realizing its intentions.

"Complicated Relationships"

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So what makes access still an issue for women?

Due to gender roles, men are often the ones who register as PhilHealth members -- especially when they sign up as paying members. In many cases, men in marginalized communities grapple with PhilHealth's documentary requirements. The only way they can include their partners as qualified dependents is if they can produce photocopies of marriage contracts. Sad to say that often, there are none.

It is true that among the poor, common marriages are rampant. Local government units seek to address this through kasalang bayans (mass weddings) but even so, "complicated relationships" where men live with a new partner or support more than just one family put women at a disadvantage.

PhilHealth should find a way to ease their documentary requirements or open opportunities for women to be part of its inclusive health agenda.

Windows of Opportunity

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PhilHealth and partners should find inspiration in pursuing initiatives to bring in women not only as qualified dependents of the working men, but also as registered members.

Studies show that women as homemakers are efficient domestic financial planners, indicating their ability to save for their own PhilHealth premium payments. Aside from this, they can take active roles in increasing awareness on PhilHealth benefits and availment procedures within their respective communities while their husbands are working and when their children are at school.

There is still plenty of time to make women count in UHC if we can already start now.