Jakarta, IO – The wounding, heated polemic over the Omnibus Law on Job Creation (UU Cipta Kerja) is still painfully fresh in our memory, because it was rejected by various elements of society. There were massive demonstrations by workers and students in various regions of Indonesia to protest the passage of this law, with some rising to violence. All was attributed to the understanding that if the Job Creation Law were to be passed, it would exert an adverse impact on workers/laborers. Nevertheless, the House of Representatives (DPR) did go on to pass the law, on October 5, 2020.
In early 2023, there was another uproar when the House took the initiative to draft an Omnibus Health Bill, which was in fact passed into law on July 11. This new legislation was in fact opposed by five professional health worker organizations, academics and civil society groups.
What is an Omnibus Law?
The terminology first appeared in President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s second-term inaugural speech, after he took the oath of office for the Presidency on October 20, 2019. In his speech, Jokowi detailed the concept of a statutory law known as an “omnibus law”, a single piece of legislation that can supplant a number of existing laws, all at once. The goal is to streamline and synchronize overlapping or even conflicting regulations, especially those governing key sectors in the economy.
Omnibus Laws are widely implemented in countries that adhere to the Common Law (Anglo-Saxon) system. Countries that have implemented this sweeping legal amendment include Canada, the Philippines, Turkey, New Zealand and Australia. The omnibus approach is also applied in countries that adhere to Civil Law, such as Vietnam, which successfully passed Laws on Value-Added Tax, Excise Tax and Tax Administration.
An Omnibus Law can be implemented in Indonesia because it does not conflict with existing laws and, more importantly, it immediately addresses community needs. One of the problems that has hindered the success of government programs so far is overlapping regulations. Thus, a breakthrough is needed to fix regulatory issues, and an Omnibus Law is considered as the most appropriate solution, as it can amend several provisions across multiple sectors, and is comprehensively regulated within a statutory framework.
Long and winding journey
The new Health Law was long in the making. It went through a convoluted process, riven by opposing views during the bill’s debate and deliberation, including resistance from professional associations. This, despite at least 115 sessions held by the Government to facilitate public engagement and participation, including public discussions with 1,200 stakeholder organizations and 72,000 participants. The government also received 6,011 verbal and written inputs through the Partisipasi Sehat portal.
The ratification of the law is part of the healthcare sector transformation required to build a strong, independent and inclusive healthcare system. The new Health Law supplanted 11 existing laws governing public health. These include Law 4/1984 on Outbreak of Infectious Diseases, Law 29/2004 on Medical Practice, Law 36/2009 on Health, Law 44/2009 on Hospitals, Law 18/2014 on Mental Health, Law 36/2004 on Health Workers, Law 38/2014 on Nursing, Law 6/2018 on Health Quarantine and Law 4/2009 on Midwifery. The major points of agreement reached by the Government and the House pertain to various efforts to improve Indonesia’s healthcare infrastructure, coalesced into 20 chapters and 450 articles.
According to the Health Ministry, there were a host of aspects that the new Health Law would be able to improve:
(1) Shifting the focus from treatment to prevention. This calls for a primary healthcare service that prioritizes health promotion and disease prevention based on the human life cycle.
(2) Improve healthcare access. Strengthening referral systems, through the provision of human resources, infrastructure, facilities, telemedicine, and the development of support networks, as well as international-standard services.
(3) Encouraging the healthcare industry to become more self-reliant. Strengthening the resilience of the pharmaceutical and medical device industry by improving the supply chain from upstream to downstream, prioritizing the use of domestic materials and products, providing incentives to domestic firms that carry out research, development and production.
(4) Preparing a disaster-resilient healthcare system. The healthcare system must be resilient in the face of public health emergencies, such as epidemics and pandemics. It is necessary to strengthen pre-disaster preparedness and a coordinated response of health worker mobilization.
(5) Improve the efficiency and transparency of heath funding, through performance-based budget allocations.