Drilon supports Duterte’s move to defer PhilHealth premium increase; says law needed to suspend rate hike

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon on Tuesday threw his support behind President Duterte’s move to postpone the scheduled increase in member contributions to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) amid the continuing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Senator Franklin Drilon
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Drilon, however, said a law must be crafted in order to suspend the mandated hike in members’ contributions.

“We need a law to suspend PhilHealth contributions. I will support it. But we have to look for alternative funding by realigning items in the General Appropriations Act (GAA or national budget) as the actuarial life of PhilHealth is in jeopardy,” Drilon said.

He recalled the statement made by an official of the state insurance agency that PhilHealth might “collapse” by 2022 as it continues to incur losses because of decreased collection amid the pandemic.

“We can postpone the premium hike. It is the right thing to do given that our kababayans (countrymen) and many businesses in the country are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic,” Drilon said.

“However, the government must throw a lifeline to PhilHealth. We cannot afford to let PhilHealth continue operating on losses. If PhilHealth’s fund is not raised by way of substantial government intervention, its credibility to reimburse hospitals will be put into question,” he said.

He noted that the government subsidy for PhilHealth for 2021 is only P71 billion.

PhilHealth said before that it was expecting a net operating loss of P90 billion in 2020 and P147 billion in 2021, if the pandemic persists. Drilon also pointed to the decrease in collection from Sin Tax Law, a Drilon-authored law that funds the Universal Health Care Act.

The government projects the collections from sin tax products at P235 billion for 2020, lower than 2019’s actual collection of P269.1 billion, he noted.

Over the next five years, the UHC will need an aggregate state funding of P1.437 trillion, starting at P257.5 billion in its first year and gradually rising to P319.4 billion in 2024, Drilon noted.

Aside from government subsidy and direct payments, the funding for UHC is sourced from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, whose operation is also affected by the pandemic.

Drilon had earlier recommended developing and strengthening the actuarial capability of PhilHealth through the assistance of government institutions such as the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System.