Sen. Go files bill authorizing President to suspend scheduled increase in PhilHealth contribution

Published January 22, 2021, 10:32 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Wednesday filed Senate Bill (SB) 2000 which seeks to grant the President of the Philippines the authority to suspend the scheduled increase in the premium contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

Sen. Bong Go (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“Mag-focus muna tayo kung paano matutulungan ang mga kababayan nating nangangailangan dahil sa COVID-19 crisis. Sa panahon ngayon, kailangan nating isaalang-alang muna ang pangangailangan nila,’’ Go said. (Let us focus first on how we could help our countrymen amid the COVID-19 crisis. At this time, we need to consider their needs.)

“Lalo na ngayon na nasa health emergency ang bansa, nawawalan ng kakayahan ang mga Pilipinong magbigay ng dagdag na kontribusyon dahil sa krisis. In this time of crisis, every single peso counts,’’ he added. (Especially now that the country is under a health emergency, the Filipinos cannot afford to give additional contributions due to the crisis.)

Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, has urged the national government to shoulder first the necessary funding to implement the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law while majority of Filipinos are still overcoming the adverse effects of the COVID-19 crisis on their livelihoods and the whole economy.

“Huwag na natin munang dagdagan ang pasakit ng taumbayan. Kung kaya naman, ang gobyerno muna ang sumalo sa kailangang pondo ng PhilHealth para maimplementa ng maayos ang Universal Health Care Law,’’ he said. (Let us not burden further the people. Maybe, the government may temporarily shoulder the needed fund of PhilHealth in order to properly implement the Universal Health Care Law.)

SB 2000 authorizes the President to suspend, upon the recommendation of the PhilHealth Board, the increase in premium contributions when public interest so requires, such as times of national or public health emergencies.

The increase and all succeeding increases shall be implemented in the year following the cessation of the emergency.

In March 2020, PhilHealth issued Circular No. 2020-005 which provides for a new schedule of contributions mandated under Republic Act No. 11223, or the UHC Act.

Mandatory PhilHealth contributions are set to increase annually from 2020 to 2025 until they reach 5 percent of the monthly income. Direct contributors were to pay a fixed monthly premium of P350 to P2,450 depending on their monthly income starting January 1, 2021.

Employee contributions will be shared equally by the employee and employer.

Meanwhile, self-paying members, professional practitioners, land-based migrant workers, and other direct contributors with no employee-employer relationship shall shoulder the full amount.

To ensure people’s continued access to affordable health coverage, Go earlier issued an urgent call to government finance managers and his fellow legislators to defer the scheduled increase in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its adverse impacts on the jobs and livelihoods of Filipinos.

He emphasized that “government, as a whole, must do its best to unburden Filipinos by shouldering the cost while ensuring that the Universal Health Care Law is implemented and the services of PhilHealth are unhampered.”

“Palagi naming inuuna ni Pangulong Duterte kung ano ang makakabuti sa nakararami, lalo na sa mga mahihirap at pinaka-nangangailangan. Kung kaya’t nagsalita na ang Pangulo na ipagpaliban muna ang pag-increase ng rates ng contributions ng PhilHealth habang meron pa tayong pandemyang kinakaharap,’’ he said. (President Duterte and me have always prioritized what is good for the majority, especially the poor and the most in need. This is why the President has ordered the deferment of the increase in rates of PhilHealth contributions while we are still facing a pandemic.)

In response, the state insurance agency expressed their support for the President and his decision in a statement issued on January 5. It announced it would continue to use the three percent contributions rate as opposed to 3.5 percent.

PhilHealth also committed to work closely with the Houses of Congress to find a “whole-of-government and whole-of-nation solution” to the issue.

“Should there be no new legislation passed for this purpose, the state health insurer will proceed with the scheduled premium rate and ceiling as provided for in the UHC law,” Philhealth said.

“Cognizant of the fortuitous situation that ravaged so many lives and derailed the economy, PhilHealth will do its part in alleviating the lives of Filipinos especially insofar as their health is concerned,” the statement added.