Our workers need all the help they can get

Published January 11, 2021, 9:45 AM

by Manila Bulletin

At a time when everyone in the country is suffering in one way or another from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impending increases in the rates of Filipino workers’ contributions to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Social Security System (SSS) should be deferred until a more appropriate time for everybody.

This pandemic has caused a national recession because of the closure of so many private businesses and government economic programs. The impact on individuals and their families has made their lives so much more difficult, with many losing their jobs or forced into extended leaves.

Those who are members of PhilHealth and SSS will be facing an additional burden in this new year.
Under the Universal Health Care Law, members pay annual premiums to PhilHealth which, starting in 2021, will increase by 0.5 percent a year until they reach 5 percent in 2025. From the current 3 percent of basic salary, members must now contribute 3.5 percent.

In addition, the Social Security Act mandates a 1 percent increase in members’ contributions this year, bringing the total monthly contribution to 13 percent in 2021.

The Makabayan Bloc of congressmen in the House of Representatives has called for an amendment to the PhilHealth and SSS laws to strike down the provisions for automatic increases. The Employers Confederation of the Philippines has appealed to President Duterte to postpone the scheduled SSS increase.

The President has already called on the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. to hold off its members’ contribution increases this year, saying the national government will look for funds to cover the scheduled hike. As for the SSS, its officials said it is ready to defer the planned increase if a law is passed or President Duterte issues an order.

In the House of Representatives, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said he has filed two bills to amend Act 11223 ,the Universal Health Act, and RA 11199, the Social Security Act, which would allow the President to suspend implementation of the automatic increases in premium contributions in times of national emergency.

“These are extraordinary times and Congress must respond accordingly,” Speaker Velasco said as he called for swift House approval of the two bills.

We see here officials of the government and leaders of the private sector working together to help the country’s workers in one problem – increases in their premium payments to PhilHealth and SSS.
After ten months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country and the likelihood of its continued threat in the coming months, the nation’s workers need every help they can get from all possible sources. We welcome the swift action the government is now taking on this one area – Philhealth and SSS contributions – that will help ease their burden in this coming year.